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Pennsylvania District Rejects Charter-Conversion Plan

In York, Pa., school officials rejected a plan that would have converted the entire district to charter schools in favor of one that sets strict performance measures while maintaining a school board, the York Daily Record reports.

The 5,000-student School District of the City of York was classified as financially distressed by the state's department of education last summer. A chief recovery officer, David G. Meckley, was appointed by the state and tasked with creating a recovery plan for the district. A quarter of the district's students are English-language learners and 23 percent are special education students

One plan floated for fixing the district's finances involved converting all of its schools to charter schools. YorkCounts, a group run by the York County Community Foundation and comprised of local business and foundation leaders, had examined reforms in other cities and initially recommended the charter plan. (You can see some of its analysis of the situation in York City here.)

But, last week, after a spring of debate, 15 of the 19 members of an advisory committee tasked with helping Meckley develop a plan for the district decided to go with a plan that involves setting performance goals for the district rather than converting to charter schools. Meckley brought that proposal to the board last week.

Here's an executive summary of that "performance-based community education model."

The plan involves a shift to site-based management and creates a school advisory council for each school, based on Philadelphia's Renaissance Schools model. It also involves the creation of "small learning academies" at the district's high school, among other changes. It keeps the school system's board intact. But schools that fail to improve can be taken over by an "external education provider."

Another idea Meckley has suggested involves consolidating the district with nearby school systems.

York City's school district had been called out by a state auditor for misusing taxpayer dollars in 2011. In Pennsylvania, Chester Upland, Duquesne, and Harrisburg have also been deemed to be "in distress."

The 7,000-student Harrisburg district seems to be taking a different approach to its recovery plan: That city's recovery manager has proposed tax hikes and is set to unveil a plan to restructure the city's schools later this month, but no all-charter approach has been suggested in the Keystone State's capital city.

In York, a final plan will be presented to the district's board on May 15.

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