HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett on Thursday signed into law a program to help Duquesne and other financially distressed school districts right their finances.
The financial recovery program, proposed by Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin and chairman of the Education Committee, borrows from laws addressing distressed municipalities and the Philadelphia schools.
The new law empowers the secretary of education to appoint an official, known as a chief recovery officer, to oversee districts declared to be in financial distress. The district school board must work with the officer to form and implement a recovery plan -- or face the appointment of a receiver.
Districts that implement a recovery plan would be eligible for interest-free loans. The legislation was written to include the districts of Duquesne, Harrisburg, York City and Chester-Upland, and it caps the program at nine districts.
The law allows districts a number of tools for use in their recovery.
They can convert school buildings to charter schools, if the change would save money. They can cancel or renegotiate contracts, other than collective bargaining agreements. With the approval of the secretary of education, they could hire employees who do not meet certification requirements. And they could close a school and reassign or dismiss professional employees.
The law also calls for an early-warning system to examine finances of the state's 500 school districts. A district found to be at risk of fiscal distress would have finances reviewed by the state and offered technical assistance.
"This bill is about saving the educations of students when the system has failed them," Mr. Corbett said in a statement.
Karen Langley: email@example.com or 1-717-787-2141.