Pennsylvania wins receivership for York schools

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A judge gave approval Friday to a bid by Gov. Tom Corbett's outgoing administration to take over the troubled York City School District and place it in receivership, a decision that was quickly appealed by the district and is opposed by the labor union and state school boards association.

The decision by York County President Judge Stephen Linebaugh gives more authority to the Corbett administration's appointee to carry out a plan to make York City's public schools the first in Pennsylvania to be turned into privately run charter schools.

If upheld, the approximately 7,500-student district would become the third Pennsylvania school district to be placed into receivership.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, a Democrat who takes office Jan. 20, opposes what he calls "charterization" of York's schools. Corbett, a Republican, has sought to open avenues for more public school students to attend private, parochial and charter schools, frequently bringing him into conflict with public school boosters.

The appointee, David Meckley, became the district's chief recovery officer in late 2012 after it met guidelines in legislation signed months earlier by Corbett designating it as in need of help.

With the mission of improving academic performance and restoring financial stability, Meckley delivered a proposal to the school board in November to bring in Florida-based Charter Schools USA to operate the district.

But the school board postponed action amid protests by teachers, parents and students and questions about the agreement itself. The state went to court Dec. 1 to give Meckley more power as the receiver under the 2012 law.

As receiver, Meckley could pursue the move without approval from the school board.

In a statement, Corbett's acting secretary of education, Carolyn Dumaresq, said Linebaugh's decision "will begin the process of returning a high-quality education to the students and community of York City."

However, a lawyer representing York City School District, Marc Tarlow, said he appealed Linebaugh's decision to Commonwealth Court on Friday. The Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state's largest school employee union, and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association also suggested they could appeal.

"The decision has ignored the will of the community and created a dangerous precedent of putting the entire public education system in the hands of a corporate entity that is not accountable to the students or taxpayers," Nathan Mains, executive director of the school boards association, said in a statement.

Wolf pinned blame on Corbett, saying in a statement that school districts like York have been starved the last four years, bringing them to the brink of financial collapse.

He will make education his top priority, Wolf said, "by working to restore funding cuts and providing adequate resources so school districts can deliver on the promise of a high-quality public education for all Pennsylvanians."

In his decision, Linebaugh declared a three-year receivership for the schools, effectively giving Meckley all of the powers of the school board, except taxation. Meckley, however, could seek court approval to force the school board to raise or impose taxes.

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