The State to Takeover the Harrisburg School District?
by Tara Leo Auchey
On October 3rd, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is scheduled to hear Harrisburg School District’s objections to being designated a district in “Financial Recovery” per the June instituted Act 141, the “Financial Recovery Law,” legislation designed to allow for State takeover of designated school districts.
With the passing of the law and the June 3oth State budget, Harrisburg School District (HSD) received $1,732,162.16 in “distressed district” funds from the State, which helped the District restore some of its severe budget cuts such as teaching positions, programs, and extracurricular activities. In August, HSD was given a “Preliminary Designation of Financial Recovery.” This notice is a step in the process of the Department of Education appointing a Chief Recovery Officer to take over the district’s finances, develop a fiscal recovery plan, and oversee its implementation there by limiting the powers of the Superintendent and the School Board of Directors.
Despite having accepted the “distressed district” funds in July, HSD formally objected to Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis’ Preliminary Designation. Thus, the hearing scheduled for next week.
The Department of Education hearing officer will oversee the proceedings, however, Secretary Tomalis will have final say. During his testimony in front of the Senate Education Committee on September 25th, Tomalis said HSD has already presented it arguments to the Department and he expects his final decision to be made quickly although he assured the Committee he had not prejudged the situation.
In response to HSD’s appeal, Senator Jeff Piccola, who was a primary supporter of Act 141, declared the District’s actions “reprehensible.”
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