Legislature helps transfers of Duquesne students
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The state Legislature appears to be paving the way for the transfer of Duquesne's seventh and eighth grade students to the East Allegheny and West Mifflin Area school districts as the state Senate Tuesday approved provisions for lifting the cap on the number of students who can attend those districts.
The Senate also adopted a provision that would require the East Allegheny and West Mifflin districts to hire furloughed Duquesne teachers qualified for open teaching positions.
Those provisions were included as amendments to House Bill 1307, known as the "Financial Recovery Bill" and introduced last month by Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin, chair of the Education Committee. Under the plan, the state education secretary would declare districts to be in financial recovery and appoint a chief recovery officer.
That officer would be charged with creating a recovery plan that could include sending students to another district or converting a school to a charter school. The legislation, if approved by the House, would limit to nine the number of districts that could be in financial recovery at one time and would apply immediately to the Duquesne, Chester-Upland, Harrisburg and York school districts.
The amendments that apply to the transfer of the Duquesne students are not part of the original legislation, but were tacked on with several others before the bill was brought for a vote before the full Senate Tuesday. It now heads to the House for a vote.
The amendments are not written to apply specifically to Duquesne, but to amend the legislation, which became Section 1607 of the state school code, that allowed for the transfer of Duquesne high school students to East Allegheny and West Mifflin following the closure of Duquesne high school in 2007. It applies to third-class school districts operating under a special board of control who have eliminated their high school programs.
The initial legislation capped the number of Duquesne students sent to each receiving district at 165. Since there are approximately that number of Duquesne students attending West Mifflin Area High School, lifting of the cap was necessary to allow seventh and eighth grade students to attend the district.
In April, the state board of control overseeing Duquesne adopted a resolution designating grades seven and eight as "junior high." That designation was made so the state education department could use the existing legislation created for the transfer of the high school students to also transfer the seventh and eighth grade students out of the financially and academically failing Duquesne district.
Though state education officials have moved forward with plans to send the Duquesne junior high students to East Allegheny and West Mifflin, they have acknowledged the official transfer can't take place unless the legislature lifts the caps on the number of Duquesne students permitted to attend the districts and appropriates more money to Duquesne to pay tuition.
Additional funding was not included in HB 1307, but is expected to be addressed in the final state budget.
First Published June 21, 2012 12:00 am