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August 30, 2014, 8:17 am

School takeovers are no solution

State lawmakers should reject a bill that would lead to an increase in state takeovers of Pennsylvania school districts veering toward financial collapse.

The Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee recently approved a bill along partisan lines that would replace the case-by-case approach used in the past for taking over struggling districts.

The bill would suspend the right to strike while a district is insolvent and have the state secretary of education appoint chief recovery officers to oversee local school districts. The chief recovery officer would be given broad powers to push districts toward such controversial measures as converting schools to charters, handing them over to education management organizations and cutting teacher’s pay.

The proposal would immediately affect four school districts: Duquesne, Harrisburg, York and Chester Upland, which sued the state in federal court in January after it threatened to shut down due to lack of money.

The bill has the support of Gov. Tom Corbett and most Republicans in the Senate where it is expected to pass. It is not known if House Republicans will also support the bill.

The proposal is a bad idea.

The bill appears to a thinly disguised attempt to bust teacher’s unions and hand schools to private operators in districts already struggling because of deep cuts in state aid and shrinking local tax bases.

Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, said that the only place the state will find savings to improve district’s finances is by forcing staff to take pay cuts — ensuring teacher turnover and making it more difficult to attract talented teachers to work for lower pay in a challenging district.

“We’re completely destroying the standards of the profession, and we’re completely destroying the opportunity of our kids to have a quality education by doing that,” Leach said.

Pennsylvania lawmakers are proposing a bill that is similar to the 2001 state takeover of Philadelphia public schools which has done little to eradicate the district’s financial, academic and violence problems.