Judge orders Pa. to release $3.2 million in education funding to Chester Upland School District

By Jon Campisi | Jan 19, 2012

A federal judge in Philadelphia has ruled that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must immediately release education subsidies to the tune of $3.2 million to the beleaguered Chester Upland School District in suburban Philadelphia.

U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson released an order Jan. 17 enjoining the Pennsylvania Department of Education from withholding funding for the economically depressed Delaware County school district.

Baylson, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ruled that the state education secretary must release $3.2 million as an advance on the district’s June 2012 Basic Education Subsidy, with the money to be doled out no later than Jan. 19.

The order comes a week after the school district, the board of school directors and a handful of parents filed a class action lawsuit against the state for failing to provide education dollars to the district, which claims it wouldn’t have been able to make its payroll as of mid-week this week without the funding.

Local media reports stated that the district said it currently has a mere $100,000 in the bank.

Teachers had earlier said they would have been willing to work without pay so as to keep classroom disruption to a minimum during the period of fiscal uncertainty.

The school district claims its financial problems are tied to the fact that charter schools have been receiving a bulk of the state funding.

The state says its hands are tied; that charter school money must be provided by law. The district disagreed with that assessment.

The district, on the other hand, contends that the state is to blame for much of the district’s financial woes.

Gov. Tom Corbett and the state education secretary, however, have been quoted as saying that only the district is to blame for the fact that it can’t meet its financial obligations; state officials say school district leaders have mismanaged their finances for far too long.

Baylson’s order states that the $3.2 million to go to the district shall go toward teacher salaries and be used to compensate other district employees and vendors.

A hearing originally scheduled for Jan. 17 was canceled, and a new hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction has been scheduled for Feb. 23 at 9:30 a.m. in Baylson’s third-floor courtroom.

The order further states that the school district reserves the right to make applications to the court for a temporary restraining order or other special court relief in the event the district is unable to continue operations because of a lack of additional funding prior to the February hearing for preliminary injunctive relief.

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