YORK, Pa. – Leaders of a deeply troubled Pennsylvania school district are considering a plan to convert all of its individual schools into charters beginning next fall – an immediate and sweeping change that’s never been attempted before in American K-12 history.
The full-scale charter conversion isn’t the only option being considered, but it may be the only one that can save the York City School District from financial ruin.
The York Dispatch reports the 5,200-pupil district is facing a $19 million deficit, caused partly by the hundreds of students who have left York schools in search of better learning opportunities.
Some believe the only way to turn the district around is by luring families away from the district’s charter school competitors. And the best way to do that is by transferring the day-to-day school operations to a charter operator that can make student-centered decisions, rather than the adult-centered decisions as demanded by the teacher union contract.
Such a move would result in all current York district employees being furloughed, reports The York Dispatch.
The York City Education Association – the local teachers union – is promoting another turnaround plan that keeps the current teachers and principals employed, but requires them to take significant cuts in pay and benefits. Under the union-favored plan, York schools would also use a “site-based management” system that gives parents a say in how their child’s school operates.
The YCEA’s unusual willingness to make concessions and cede some decision-making power to parents is an indication of how worried the union is that the charter plan may go through.
Union members picketed last night’s meeting during which the 20-person York City School District financial recovery committee heard the pros and cons of each turnaround plan.
Committee members will vote in a few days for the option they prefer.
However, the only opinion that matters is that of David Meckley, the state-appointed chief recovery officer who is tasked with saving York schools.
Meckley is expected to make his decision – and possibly K-12 history – by mid-May.