CASD board, admin mum on Act 85 allegations

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Questions remain over numbers of students leaving for charter schools

By Lauren Parker-Gill, News Editor, The Times

At the noticeably quiet and uneventful committee meeting and special board meeting of the Coatesville Area School District Tuesday, neither school board members, nor superintendent Dr. Cathy Taschner addressed accusations made by the group, “The Movement,” at the last school board meeting in April.

At the noticeably quiet and uneventful committee meeting and special board meeting of the Coatesville Area School District Tuesday, neither school board members, nor superintendent Dr. Cathy Taschner addressed accusations made by the group, “The Movement,” at the last school board meeting in April.

CALN – At the noticeably quiet and uneventful committee meeting and special board meeting of the Coatesville Area School District Tuesday, neither school board members, nor superintendent Dr. Cathy Taschner addressed accusations made by the group, “The Movement,” at the last school board meeting in April.

Among the allegations were questions regarding the state’s Act 85, an “Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program” that offers students within the boundaries of a low-achieving public school, scholarship money to attend a private school or participating public school in another district. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Caln Elementary and Scott Middle School were in the lowest 15% for the previous academic year and it was speculated that the district withheld that information.

CASD officials last reported they had not received notification from the PDE that any of their schools were on the list of low achieving schools.

“We have not received the official letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, but understand from preliminary information that Scott Middle School will be on the list. Of course, once we receive the letter the District will comply with the directions in the letter.” Taschner previously said in an email.

Since then the CASD administration posted a letter from the PDE on the main page of the district website dated May 5, 2016:

“The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) hereby officially notifies you that the Coatesville Area School District has been identified as having at least one school designated as a low-achieving school. The following is the school within the district designated as low achieving: Scott Middle School.” The announcement stated.

Another attachment on the district website explains state Act 85, which students are eligible, the amount of funding per student, how to apply, parental responsibility and information for transportation.

Questions were also raised at the last school board meeting, regarding the number of students from the CASD that are currently attending charter schools. According to an email, Taschner stated that only 8 students had left the district for charter schools in the 2015-2016 school year through November 2015. According to an attachment in the CASD committee meeting packet dated August 31, 2015, there were 1,920 students from the district, attending charter schools. A spreadsheet from press secretary Nicole Reigelman for the PDE, dated October 1, 2015 showed 1,979 were attending charter schools – this indicates a difference of 59 students in just one month and does not coincide with the number previously given by Taschner. As of press time, Taschner had not replied to requests for further explanation.

At the special board meeting, financial statements and bills payable were approved and the final budget in the amount of $153,187,522 for 2016-2017 was adopted with a 2.1% property tax increase.

Also approved were architectural and engineering services for security modifications at the entrance of the 9/10 center of the high school.

The YMCA requested that the district waive the fees for using Scott Middle School for a summer program that will take place from June 13 through August 19. Board members discussed several possibilities, such as asking the YMCA to pay for the utilities used during the operation of the program and/or paying for custodial services. Ultimately, the board voted to table it, so as to discuss possible options further.

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