The Pennsylvania Department of Education is seeking to further intervene in the Harrisburg School District, asking a court to put it in receivership.
Education Secretary Pedro Rivera petitioned Dauphin County Court on Monday, saying the district had “failed to implement or fulfill key initiatives” in its financial recovery plan. He said the district had failed to meet “or even make meaningful progress toward” student achievement targets, and had not hired financial leaders with the needed experience.
If the court grants the petition — it has seven days to hold a hearing, then 10 days to decide — Harrisburg would be one of only three Pennsylvania school districts to be controlled by a court-appointed receiver. The other two are the Chester-Upland and Duquesne City School Districts, according to the Department of Education.
Harrisburg, one of the state’s larger districts, with over 7,500 pupils in the 2017-18 school year, was placed in financial recovery in late 2012 — a designation issued by the Education Department when a district requires advance payment of its state subsidy.
The state appointed a chief recovery officer to develop a plan for the district. But the district hasn’t carried it out, according to Rivera, including failing to develop a strategy to reduce “excessive staff absenteeism.” It also hasn’t put proper administrative controls in place, Rivera said in the petition — improperly paying out more than $700,000 in health benefits to former employees.
A preliminary state audit of the district is expected this week, according to PennLive.