Atask force of community leaders made a bold recommendation this week to the committee charged with finding a plan to fix the struggling York City School District.
Basically, it was, "Start over."
The task force -- made up of York County Community Foundation and York Counts members -- said the only way to solve the district's financial woes, stem declining enrollment and address community dissatisfaction is to convert all of its schools to charter academies.
What the district has been doing so far obviously isn't working, and other ideas, such as vouchers, don't address the problem, members said.
A systemic change is in order.
The task force made its recommendation Wednesday during a meeting of the district's Financial Recovery Advisory Committee, formed by state-appointed Chief Recovery Officer David Meckley to help find a new direction for the district.
The financial recovery process, which kicked off in December, is mandated by the state because of the district's seemingly endless financial woes.
The York City School District already has five charter schools -- which have been siphoning students and funding for years -- but task force members said their recommendation isn't a matter of "If you can't beat them join them."
A full conversion -- over five years -- is simply the best option that will produce results quickly, they said.
Still, the characterization could easily apply.
The same night the task force made its recommendation, the recovery committee heard from its state-assigned financial consulting firm, which predicted an exodus of students to charter schools in the coming years.
Enrollment at existing charter schools will grow by 1,100 students, from 2,427 students as of January 2013 to 3,567 by 2018, the consultant said. At the same time, York City School District enrollment will drop from 4,799 students now to 4,188 in five years.
Assuming no wage increases or changes to state aid calculations, the result will be huge annual deficits, building to a $21 million shortfall in the 2017-18 school year, according to the consultant.
By 2018, charter school tuition payments would account for half of the district's projected $140 million 2017-18 budget.
So if that's the trend, why not embrace a full conversion to charter schools now, allowing for an orderly transition?
The main reason is there are plenty of questions about its plan the task force can't answer.
For instance, where does a full conversion leave the school board, the only entity allowed to levy school taxes? How much money will it actually save? Does state law even allow for this, and, if not, will legislators be willing to change the law?
Finding those answers will be up to Meckley and his committee -- if, that is, they decide to pursue it.
We hope they do.
The York City School District's problems run so deep it's almost a given the solution will lie in an innovative move such as this.