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Law Firms File Request on Behalf of Special Ed. Students in York City, Pa. Case

With a local judge expected to rule this week on whether to grant a state request to appoint a receiver to oversee the struggling York City school district in Pennsylvania, two education public interest law firms are asking to weigh in on the matter.

The firms—the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia—are arguing that the proposal to convert the district to one consisting solely of charter schools, a transformation that appears a given if the receivership petition is approved, will violate the rights of the district's special education students.

They argue that the charter-schools-conversion plan violates both state and federal laws governing the education rights of students with disabilities. 

On Monday, the firms filed a petition with the court on behalf of the York NAACP and the Arc of Pennsylvania, an advocacy group representing individuals with disabilities, to submit an amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," brief in the proceedings, according to the York Daily Record

Last week, Common Pleas Judge Stephen Linebaugh heard arguments for and against the state's petition to appoint David Meckley, now the district's chief recovery officer, as the receiver.

The state's request, filed Dec. 1, is opposed by the local school board, parents, the teachers' union and others, who disagree with Meckley's plan to turn over school operations to Charter Schools USA, a charter operator that manages about 70 schools in a number of states, including Florida, Indiana, and Louisiana.

Representatives from Charter Schools USA talked about their record and strategy in this Q & A published in the York Daily Record on Dec. 17.

We wrote about the situation unfolding in York City in early December and what the possible transformation from a traditional public school district to one consisting solely of charter schools portends for other districts in both financial and academic distress.  

The state's department of education has argued the district, which was declared a "moderate financial recovery district" in December 2012, had made little effort to follow the financial-recovery plan crafted by Meckley and adopted by the board in 2013.

For example, the board in November failed to approve Meckley's proposal to approve a contract between the district and Charter Schools USA.

According to the York Daily Record, Meckley told the court last week that the primary alternative for students who do not attend the charter schools after a possible conversion to charters will be a cyber program.

The charter contract that the board considered last month did not address how students with disabilities will be served by the charters nor alternatives for those special education students who did not attend the charter schools, according to the paper.

It is up to Linebaugh to decide whether to allow the two firms to intervene. However, the judge is expected to issue his opinion on the receivership request this week.

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