The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the potential loss of millions of dollars from the Chester Upland School District after district officials reported what may have been a cyberhack of money it typically gets from the state.
Juan Baughn, the receiver overseeing the school district, said it contacted law enforcement after it didn’t receive “millions” of dollars in a subsidy payment due last week from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
“Our system, between us and Harrisburg, somehow was hacked,” Baughn said Thursday. “It’s a cyber issue.”
Baughn didn’t specify how much money the district believed had gone missing — “I’ve heard so many numbers that I don’t want to give a number” — but said it was “in the millions.”
A spokesperson for Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer confirmed that his office was contacted Monday by the district’s solicitor, but said she could not discuss the “active and ongoing” probe.
A Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesperson said Thursday that the department “cannot comment on any ongoing investigations related to this matter at this time.” But the spokesperson, Kendall Alexander, added that “this matter does not involve any compromise of PDE systems or data.”
The embattled Chester Upland district has been under court-ordered receivership since 2012. As part of its latest financial recovery plan, it has solicited bids to turn over some or all of its schools to charter management companies. More than half of Chester Upland’s roughly 7,000 public school students already attend charters — including Chester Community Charter, Pennsylvania’s largest brick-and-mortar charter school — which are paid by the district based on the number of students they enroll.
Those payments have been a source of dispute. The district last Friday petitioned the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas to recover nearly $7 million it says it was overcharged by Chester Community Charter dating back to 2019, in violation of a settlement agreement the district previously reached with charters over payments for special-education students. A school spokesperson pointed to a 2018 Commonwealth Court ruling in favor of cyber charters that had argued they should not have to accept a reduced payment rate from Chester Upland.
But Baughn, the receiver, said Thursday the district’s dispute with Chester Community Charter is unrelated to the probe into the missing money.
“The money that we’re missing and all of that has nothing to do with” that case, he said. Asked about his belief that the payment was hacked, Baughn said that was his “suspicion.”
In light of the missing payment, Baughn said Chester Upland had “asked for some advancements” from the state “to get the money we need to pay the bills.”
Staff writer Jeremy Roebuck contributed to this article.