A Delaware County judge denied Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf’s request to change charter school funding for the Chester Upland School District.
In documents sent from the Delaware County Courthouse to NBC10, an opinion and order states “The initiative to Amend the Financial Recovery Plan by realigning Cyber Charter Tuition rates (non-Special Education) is DISAPPROVED, without prejudice, as being arbitrary and capricious."
The documents are in response to a state bid to drastically cut how much the Chester Upland School District pays charters for special education students and online learning. Governor Wolf said the survival of the financially troubled district could depend on court approval for the cuts, which would total about $24.7 million in the 2015-16 school year.
Curbing charter school reimbursements was part of a recovery plan to reduce the district's deficits through auditing, appointment of a financial turnaround specialist and fiscal monitoring of future spending.
The Pennsylvania Coalition on Public Charter Schools called Wolf's proposals a blatant step in "killing" charter schools at the expense of children.
More than half of all students in the district attend charter schools, and officials said the troubled district is scheduled to pay charter schools more than $40,000 per special education child, far more than other districts.
Critics argue the cost is due to unanticipated loopholes and faulty assumptions in the formula, not because special education costs more in the district.
David Clark Jr., chief executive officer of Chester Community Charter School, said last week that the district runs a deficit every year and the state "has always had to supplement and rescue them financially." Since 2010, the state has provided Chester Upland with more than $74 million in addition to its normal funding.
"So, now they want to take it from us? It doesn't make sense," he said. "It is very disturbing how the state wants to deal with this."