Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Seeking solutions in Chester Upland

We went searching for answers to the financial riddle that is the Chester Upland School District last night on our live Internet broadcast, “Live From the Newsroom.”

Our guest was state Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, of Chester. The representative joined us via the phone from his office in Harrisburg, where the Legislature is in session.

We also were expecting Thomas Persing, the assistant superintendent of Chester Upland, to join us in the office, but he had a conflict come up at the last moment and had to cancel.

If you missed the show you can watch the full replay here.

A lot of people talk about Chester Upland, about its money problems, and its future. Not nearly as many people have an idea of what to do about it.

The state Education Department is apparently considering a 'Special Board of Control' to take over the district. You can read about that plan here.

Kirkland has a different idea, and he talked about it last night.

First off, he plans to meet with state Auditor General Jack Wagner this morning about his request for a forensic audit of the school district’s finances.

Seems like a good idea. Last week the district was flat broke. They weren’t going to be able to pay their bills – or their staff – until a federal judge ordered the state to turn over $3.2 million to tide them over until the end of the month.

But that’s not really an answer. It's the result of a lawsuit filed by the district against Corbett and the state Education Department. Since then Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, held something of a summit about Chester Upland with the Delco delegation in Harrisburg. There was lots of talk, not much in the way of solutions, other than a pledge to keep the schools open the remainder of the year.

Of course, there’s always the option of just throwing more money at the situation.

Even Kirkland concedes that hasn’t worked.

Here’s what he wants to do. He wants to place the district not back under state control, where it spent 16 years, but instead under the wing of the city and new Mayor John Linder.

Linder is a longtime educator and has experience in running a charter school.

I have no idea if the mayor, who as you might guess has a pretty full plate in the city in the early days of his administration, is interested. I also don’t know what kind of reaction it would get from the elected school board, which has been back in control for the last 18 months.

It likely would take an act of the state Legislature to pull it off, but it is at least something no one else has considered.

Give Kirkland credit for that.

Today we’ll go about getting more reaction to Kirkland’s idea.

And a reminder to Gov. Corbett, Sen. Pileggi, anyone from the school district and the state Education Department: Our invitation stands. If you want to come on the show and talk about the problems facing the district, feel free. You can reach me at 610-622-8818, or email me at

I can be an equal opportunity publicist. I have the platform. Now I need more people to get involved.

In the meantime, our thanks to Rep. Kirkland for coming on the show.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

They need to desegregate the school district. Unfortunately, the neighboring school districts won't take the kids.

January 25, 2012 at 7:16 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, can you please explain how simply turning CUSD over to Mayor Linder is a solution to anything? Where is the plan? If you look at the first month of the Mayor's administration, the only "plan" seems to be to get rid of qualified people and replace them with their own political and less than qualified friends. How long are you going to give the administration a honeymoon before you start asking the hard questions?

January 25, 2012 at 8:19 PM 

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