The Chester Upland school board voted, 5-4, Monday night to reject a recently released financial and academic recovery plan, causing the state to seek to have the troubled district placed in control of a receiver.
Approval of the plan was necessary for the elected board to have a role in implementing it - which several residents implored members to do.
Board President Wanda Mann, before casting her no vote, said she could not support a plan that called for laying off teachers, closing schools, and increasing class sizes.
As the meeting grew increasingly contentious, State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland (D., Delaware) and others accused the board's Republican majority of voting based on politics rather than for the district's children.
Board member Charlie Warren, who voted in favor of the plan, said he wanted the community to have a voice in its implementation.
"I'm voting to stay in the game," Warren said.
Under distressed-district legislation, the state must now seek to have a receiver named. That could be Joseph Watkins, appointed chief recovery officer by the state this summer, or someone else.
The school board would continue to exist, but its power would be limited to levying and raising taxes, according to state Education Department spokesman Tim Eller.
Dean Kaplan, a consultant who worked with Watkins on the plan, said he was "very disappointed" by the vote. Watkins was not present.
The recovery plan made public Nov. 13 calls for the schools to be run by outside operators, such as charter schools, cyber charters, and education management companies, if the district does not meet certain academic performance goals by the end of the 2014-15 school year.
The plan aims to bring financial health to the deficit-ridden district. Under the proposal, private funding would be sought to pay for such programs as day care for students' children and after-school and summer offerings. Taxes would increase, and some district buildings would be sold.
The district's central administration building and three school buildings would be closed - two possibly as soon as next month - and 70 jobs would be eliminated by the end of the next school year.
The plan also calls for improving academic performance in a district where more than 50 percent of students score below proficiency on state standardized tests.