Chester Upland School District (CUSD) Receiver Dr. Francis V. Barnes, on Monday, spent hours on the witness stand, making a case for a financial recovery plan, that if implemented, would, in his opinion, bring financial stability to the fiscally unsound district.
Barnes provided testimony before Delaware County President Judge Chad Kenney, which included his reasons for requesting approval to reduce annual payments from $40,000 per special education student attending charter schools to $16,000 per student.
Starting at 1 p.m., the hearing was recessed for the evening shortly after 8 p.m. Monday. Testimony was scheduled to continue Tuesday with charter school attorneys.
Prior to the well attended hearing, more than 150 protesters, many dressed in t-shirts representing the Chester Community Charter School and other charter and cyber schools, gathered outside the Media courthouse, in opposition to the proposed district plan.
Barnes said under oath that if the plan is not approved, it is probable the district, which is currently operating with a more than $20 million deficit, would not make it to December or January and would have to close its schools.
“I do not want any students to go without proper and appropriate services,” Barnes said… “But, we are paying $10,000 more than the next highest district in special education charter school disbursements,”
Barnes said in addition to reducing reimbursements to charter school special education students, the proposed plan calls for a forensic audit of all district spending since 2010, a cap on reimbursements to cyber charter schools at just below $6,000 per student, and the hiring of a turn-around specialist who would examine past practices as well as keep the district on the straight and narrow in the future.
Barnes said if the proposed plan is implemented, CUSD will save $24 million this upcoming school year, and if not approved, the district will fall $46 million in deficit.