Keystone Crossroads sat down with WITF’s Ben Allen to discuss what’s next in the city of York as public school officials keep fighting the state’s takeover and planned privatization of the district.
A judge has ruled the state can take over York City School District. The ruling comes after months of debate about the status of the district, and a couple days of hearings. WITF’s Ben Allen discussed what the ruling means and what’s next in the city of York with Keystone Crossroads reporter Emily Previti:
BA: What does this mean right now, as we sit here?
EP: Right now, it means that the school district and the city of York is poised to become the only place in the U.S. where public education is provided entirely by charter companies. And I say, “is poised,” because there are multiple appeals already in the works, and an incoming governor (Tom Wolf) who’s said he’s opposed to this. Although he hasn’t really said what he would do if the wheels were in motion before he gets into office.
BA: You said “is poised”, we’ve got those appeals coming, and have Gov.-elect Tom Wolf who takes office Jan. 20. How likely, is it even fair to assign a percentage to, whether this gets through?
EP: Both the Pennsylvania Department of Education – which is the entity trying to take over the school district, the entity that says ‘yes,’ we would bring in Charter Schools USA to operate all school buildings in York – both PDE and the attorney for the school district, which has opposed the state takeover and is opposing the charterization, they agree that the appeals will result in an automatic stay on the decision.
So once those appeals are filed (editor’s note: appeals were filed later Friday by York City School District and its associated teachers and staff unions), nothing can happen until they’re adjudicated.
BA: So with an automatic stay, that presses pause on the decision, … and things stay as they are for the foreseeable future?
EP: Exactly. And maybe I should say, … strong probability. If this goes to a judge who wants to rule on it very quickly and does, then we would know the outcome and whether Wolf’s in office or not wouldn’t matter.
BA: But judging by how the timeline has evolved over the past couple months, this has been a drawn-out process, and it could be even more drawn out.
EP: Right, exactly.
BA: So let’s get into what this would actually mean. If the appeals were denied and this actually goes into place. Where would we stand?
EP: Things wouldn’t change drastically during the remainder of the school year. The charter company would start the process of kind of gearing up and planning to take over the district. They’d get $2 million from the state to help them do that. And come September, the goal would be to have Charter Schools USA operat(ing) the district. All teachers who are there now would have to re-apply to the company for their jobs. And students living in York would have the choice to go to schools operated by Charter Schools USA, a different charter school company (as we know, there are multiple already operating schools in York). They could opt for cyber school as well. High school students, by the way, would only have the option of attending the charter-run (William Penn) High School, possibly the county technical school, or cyber school. But they wouldn’t have another brick-and-mortar option (in the city) because there is no high school operated by another charter company in York, currently.