This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The last two weeks have been a roller coaster for the Chester Upland School District, outside of Philadelphia.
Today, a district official announced that debt relief from the state would give some temporary assistance with a payroll crunch. A Delaware County judge ruled that the state has to ramp up its contribution.
"It just doesn’t work," said Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Chad Kenney about the current system of funding schools primarily through local property tax dollars. "It’s broken for Chester Upland."
Kenney has presided over years of hearings on Chester Upland schools, which the state declared financially distressed more than 25 years ago.
Charter schools now enroll about half of the district’s 7,200 students. Tuition payments to the charter schools by local districts are mandated by state law, and the state-appointed receiver Francis Barnes and Gov. Wolf have argued that those payments are based on a flawed formula, diverting too many resources to the charter schools.
Two weeks ago, Kenney rejected a financial recovery plan proposed by Barnes that would have reduced payments to charter schools for special education students from $40,000 per student to $16,000.