This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
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After two months of negotiations and hearings, Delaware County Judge Chad Kenney has approved a drastic plan to rework the Chester Upland School District’s finances.
The next question is, can he do that?
Chester Upland, one of a handful of financially distressed districts in Pennsylvania, has a state-appointed receiver in charge of charting a course for the district that will pull it out of a cycle of debts and deficits.
In August, receiver Francis V. Barnes introduced a plan that included cutting charter tuition payments for special education students from $40,000 a student to $16,000, the amount set by a bipartisan committee on special education funding.
After a series of rejections and revisions, the district struck a deal with the three largest brick-and-mortar charters to reduce that amount to $27,028 per student. Kenney approved a plan with that provision, and he ordered the state to cough up an additional $20 million in basic education funding, the line item that makes up the bulk of yearly state contributions to school districts.
As part of the order, charter schools must also waive payments they were still owed by Chester Upland, incurred during the 2014-15 school year, a total of about $8.7 million.