Delco officials press for Pa. takeover of Chester Upland

Chester Mayor John Linder addresses a group of Chester High School students who left class to rally outside the city hall.
Chester Mayor John Linder addresses a group of Chester High School students who left class to rally outside the city hall. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 14, 2012

A bipartisan group of Delaware County legislators including Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi asked Gov. Corbett on Friday to declare the Chester Upland School District financially distressed, which would trigger a state takeover.

Without immediate aid to the district, the legislators said, a shutdown was likely "imminent . . . leaving thousands of Pennsylvania children who literally have nowhere to go to school."

In the letter to the governor, they called for an emergency meeting Tuesday to figure out how to avoid a shutdown of the bankrupt district. Teachers and other staff are working without pay.

Corbett spokeswoman Janet Kelley said the governor "looks forward to meeting with the legislators to discuss the financial predicament at Chester Upland School District at the earliest possible time." She did not have any comment on the letter's contents, she said.

Corbett and state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis have refused to provide money for Chester Upland, saying the district failed to manage its finances.

Chester Upland school board members and administrators say debt from previous years, payments for thousands of students who attend charter schools, and large state budget cuts last year are responsible.

In the letter to Corbett, three state senators and six state representatives stated: "We agree that the commonwealth cannot continue to direct additional taxpayer dollars to a broken system. However, without short-term financial help, Chester Upland faces the strong, imminent likelihood that it will have to close its doors."

They added: "There is no other school district, collection of school districts, or charter school nearby that could come remotely close to accommodating 3,600 students."

Tomalis said last week that Chester Upland did not meet state criteria to be declared distressed. A declaration of distress would trigger the appointment of a new board to replace the elected one.

The legislators asked for a meeting with Corbett and Tomalis, adding, "Obviously this is a humanitarian and public perception problem that will quickly gain national attention. We have literally never faced such a situation before. . . . While there may be some room to debate how we arrived at this moment, it seems to us that there can be no debate regarding the need to address this situation immediately and decisively."

In addition to Pileggi, a former Chester mayor, the legislators signing the letter were Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat; Republican Sen. Ted Erickson; Republican Reps. William Adolph Jr., Stephen Barrar, Joseph Hackett, and Thomas Killion; and Democratic Reps. Maria Donatucci and Greg Vitali.

Adolph, the Appropriations Committee chair, has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 27 at Widener University to address the crisis.


Contact staff writer Dan Hardy at 215-854-2612, dhardy@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @DanInq.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|