Chester-Upland District in "Recovery Status"

Last Updated: September 26, 2012

This article appeared in the September 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

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The small Chester-Union school district in Pennsylvania has reached a final settlement agreement with the state that will cover the district’s debts and provide additional funding for the 2012–13 school year.

The district had sued the state in federal court claiming that mismanagement of the district by the district between 1994 and 2010 and cuts in state funding had made it impossible for the district to provide required special education services.

The district has had a long history of financial issues. These issues were made more severe when a charter school opened in the district. In Pennsylvania, local funding follows students to charter schools and districts must make allocations to charters from all non-federal grants and revenue sources. In addition, districts must pay charters twice as much funding for each special education student as the district spends on special education students in regular schools. See previous RSFN Coverage here.

In August, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis placed the district in financial recovery status and appointed Joe Watkins as chief recovery officer. Watkins is a former chairman of Students First, a controversial political action committee headed by former DC schools chief Michelle Rhee. The policy agenda of Students First includes the elimination of teacher tenure, basing teacher pay on the test scores of their students, requiring parent consent before placing students with “ineffective” teachers, changing teacher pension and benefit programs, expanding school choice, and implementing the so-called parent trigger that allows parents to turn a school over to an outside management organization. Watkins also serves as a Republican political analyst for MSNBC.

Editor’s note: See previous RSFN Coverage here.

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