Brian Peteritas is a GOVERNING contributor.E-mail: email@example.com
Seeking to stem the tide of financially troubled school districts in his state, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has signed a new bill into law that will work as a recovery plan. Under the new program, the state secretary of education is permitted to appoint a chief recovery officer to oversee any district that is found to be in financial distress.
Once appointed, the officer would work with the district to craft a recovery plan. After the plan is implemented, the district becomes eligible for interest-free loans and is given more freedom to cancel or re-negotiate contracts (except for collective bargaining agreements). The officer is allowed under the program to hire employees that may not meet the typically rigorous certification requirements, close schools, and re-assign or dismiss professional employees.
As part of the new program, the state Department of Education will also develop an early warning system to prevent financial problems in the future. The program is estimated to cost $6 million dollars and will be kicked off with a review of all 500 school districts to see which qualify.