Pittsburgh Council approves panel to study school district

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Pittsburgh City Council today took the first step in forming a 23-member public education task force that will be charged with coming up with alternatives to closing public schools in the city.

Council gave preliminary approval today to a resolution sponsored by Councilman Theresa Kail-Smith creating the task force. The resolution also calls on the Pittsburgh Board of Education to place a moratorium on shuttering schools for the 2013-14 school year and to reconsider a new teacher evaluation system. Another part of the resolution, asking the district to reconsider its new teacher evaluation system, was deleted.

The task force will include four council members, two school board members, one member of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, two members of educational advocacy groups, members of the Pittsburgh Public Schools administration and a peppering of students and community members. It will be charged with producing a report by next September.

Pittsburgh Public Schools faces a large deficit and could face state receivership within a few years. A proposal drafted by consultants to remake the district and make it financially solvent included school closures.

School board members said at a public hearing last week that they believed city council was overstepping its bounds by drafting a resolution.

Ms. Kail-Smith said she hopes the task force, which could take on other issues, represents a new collaboration between city government and the school board.

“It’s an opportunity to start a dialogue that should have occurred a long time ago,” she said.

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.

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