In less than a year, all of the York City School District's buildings could be converted to charter schools.
That outcome became a little more possible Wednesday after a vote taken by the Community Education Council, a volunteer group charged with overseeing the York City School District's state-mandated financial-recovery plan.
That plan sets a deadline of Nov. 30 for the council and the district's school board to approve building-improvement plans developed by school advisory committees, another set of volunteers who were delegated recovery-plan responsibilities.
Each school's committee did that and did it well, according to Superintendent Eric Holmes. However, the council voted Wednesday not to approve the plans.
A piece missing: That's because the district is missing a giant piece of the puzzle.
The York City Education Association - the district's teachers union - has not yet agreed to a new collective-bargaining agreement with the district.
The recovery plan - known as the internal-transformation model - was proposed by union and administration leaders and approved by the state-appointed chief recovery officer, David Meckley.
That plan outlines "workforce savings" required to achieve the district's financial goals. It includes wage reductions between 5 and 15 percent, depending on an employee's job. During the next five years, teachers would see decreases of up to 11.9 percent, according to the plan.
Negotiations with the union are ongoing, Holmes said.
The district cannot move forward with the internal-transformation model without a collective-bargaining agreement that reflects the recovery plan, Meckley said Wednesday.
"It just can't be done," he said.
That's because the district cannot achieve fiscal solvency without concessions from the union, Meckley said.
Possible salary relief: He noted district employees have an opportunity to recoup some of those lost earnings.
The recovery plan - which is available online on the district's website, www.ycs.k12.pa.us - provides an "enrichment provision" that identifies ways the district could spend money it acquires beyond its projections. One possibility is increased salary and benefits.
The council's vote does not mean council members disapproved of the building-improvement plans, Meckley said.
In fact, he said, "They're good plans, and they will be implemented."
But the recovery plan set a Nov. 30 deadline for the council to approve those plans. Without a teachers' contract, that can't be done, opening the door for partial or complete conversion to charter schools as early as September.
Timetable doesn't change: That doesn't change even if the union agrees to a contract as early as next week - barring the unlikely scenario that the council calls a special meeting to reconsider its Wednesday vote, Meckley said.
Had the district met its Nov. 30 deadline for the building-improvement plans, the earliest any schools could be converted to charters would have been the 2015-2016 school year. At that point, conversion would be considered for "any school that fails to demonstrate meaningful improvement," according to the recovery plan.
Next on the council's agenda is approval of the process "for selecting external education providers to be placed on a qualified provider list," according to the recovery plan. That goal must be accomplished by Dec. 31.
Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday's vote, the council would have proceeded with establishing that process, Meckley said.
However, he said, "The urgency of their work is moved up a year."
Despite the urgency, there are many reasons why the district might continue with its internal-transformation plan at all of the schools in September, Meckley said.
For example, he said, the council and school board might not find any qualified charter providers.
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