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Pennsylvania’s state government wants to take over one district’s failing schools and turn them over to the for-profit company Charter Schools USA. But first, a judge must rule in the state’s favor.
Court proceedings began Monday and resumed Tuesday morning. York County Judge Stephen Linebaugh is hearing arguments for and against putting the York City School District into receivership. If that happens, the state-appointed chief recovery officer David Meckley plans to turn the district’s eight schools into charters.
As the district’s receiver, he would have full authority over the district, except for tax rates, reports PennLive.com. The district is plagued with financial problems and low student achievement.
The court’s ruling is expected within ten days, in accordance with state law.
“The law is clear on the timeline for the court to rule on the specific issue, and the state Department (of Education) is pleased the judge is working to adhere to that,” department spokesman Tim Eller told PennLive.
Groups in the district, including the teachers’ union, have come out against the charter school plan. Some students are also opposed and skipped school on Monday to protest.
“We want our voice heard,” student Nicole Harman told the York Dispatch.
If the plan is implemented, the district would be just the second district in the country to offer only charter schools. The first was New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Charter school companies have an added incentive to turn around struggling schools due to profit-based incentives not found in publicly-run schools.
Incoming Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who happens to be from York County, is opposed to the state’s plan. That means the clock is ticking.
“Clearly [Gov. Tom Corbett’s] administration wants to put the district into receivership so they can sign the contracts before the new administration comes in,” Michael Churchill, a lawyer at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, told AlJazeera America. “That could lock them in for 15 years.”
Last week the court denied the district’s request for a stay, which would have delayed the case until Gov.-elect Wolf took office.
The state says it is pursuing receivership because the district is failing to follow the recovery plan its school board approved in 2013. The district ranked 491st out of 496 public school districts in Pennsylvania, according to a ranking by the Pittsburgh Business Times.
Featured image: William Penn Senior High School
Tags: charter schools, school choice, York County
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