HARRISBURG - A judge gave approval Friday to the Corbett administration's bid to take over the troubled York City School District and place it in receivership, a decision - opposed by the district, its teachers' union, and the state school boards association - that was quickly appealed.
The decision by York County Court President Judge Stephen Linebaugh gives more authority to the administration's appointee to carry out a plan to make York City's public schools the first in Pennsylvania to be turned into privately run charter schools.
If upheld, the approximately 7,500-student district would become the third Pennsylvania school district to be placed into receivership.
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, a Democrat who takes office Jan. 20, has said he opposes the move to turn the schools into charter schools. Corbett, a Republican, has sought to boost avenues for public school students to attend private, parochial, and charter schools, frequently bringing him into conflict with public-school boosters.
The appointee, David Meckley, became the district's chief recovery officer in late 2012 after it met guidelines in legislation signed months earlier by Corbett designating it as financially distressed.
With the mission of improving academic performance and restoring financial stability, Meckley delivered a proposal to the school board in November to bring in Florida-based Charter Schools USA to operate the district. But the school board postponed action amid protests by teachers, parents, and students, and questions about the agreement itself, and the state went to court Dec. 1 to give Meckley more power as the receiver under the 2012 law.
As receiver, Meckley could pursue the move without approval from the school board.
In a statement, Corbett's acting secretary of education, Carolyn Dumaresq, said Linebaugh's decision "will begin the process of returning a high-quality education to the students and community of York City."
However, a lawyer representing York City School District, Marc Tarlow, said he appealed Linebaugh's decision to Commonwealth Court on Friday. The Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state's largest school employee union, and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association also suggested they could appeal.
"The decision has ignored the will of the community and created a dangerous precedent of putting the entire public education system in the hands of a corporate entity that is not accountable to the students or taxpayers," Nathan Mains, executive director of the school boards association, said in a statement.
In his decision, Linebaugh declared a three-year receivership for the schools, effectively giving Meckley all of the powers of the school board, except taxation. Meckley, however, could seek court approval to force the district to raise or impose taxes.