A settlement has been reached in the Law Center’s class action litigation against the Pennsylvania Department of Education and state officials on the issue of whether the Chester-Upland School District (CUSD) will be able to stay open and provide services for students with disabilities in accordance with federal law in the 2012-2013 school year. According to the Settlement Agreement, the Commonwealth will provide the CUSD with $20.5 million to eliminate existing operating debt, and an additional $9.7 million for the 2012-2013 school year.
Michael Churchill, Attorney for the Law Center explains: “This is a wonderful move forward for a district plagued with financial difficulties. Parents can rest assured that next year they will not have to watch the paper daily to find out if there will be school in Chester.”
Additionally, in a major victory for the District’s 850 children with disabilities, the PA Dept. of Education has agreed that it will intensify its assistance to families by placing a state Special Education Officer (SEO) in the district who will ensure that children with disabilities receive the services that they need. The SEO will supervise additional steps to be taken by the CUSD to improve its special education services, including: 1) hiring a special education director and other special education staff; 2) revising its district special education plan and manual and making those available online for staff and families; and 3) targeting various areas of special education including timely evaluations, proper IEPs, behavior support services, Extended School Year and Least Restrictive Environment.
Sonja Kerr, Director of Disabilities Rights at the Law Center, says that: “This is a great step forward for children in Chester to correct the significant special education deficiencies in the District and to do so in a prompt manner. In addition, the State is responsible to ensure that children receive a free appropriate public education. When parents have problems, they can go to the SEO for direct and timely help. Nothing in the agreement, however, precludes parents of children with disabilities from using the usual due process and complaint procedures under IDEA and Section 504.”