Can Scranton Furlough Teachers?

Can Scranton Furlough Teachers?

The Scranton School District (Lackawanna County) was placed in Act 141 financial watch status in June of 2017 due to factors related to its fund balance, tax rate, debt, and operating deficit.  Financial watch is not as severe as financial recovery, and by being placed in watch status the District was told it would receive “…technical assistance to help the District with its financial challenges” from the Department of Education.

Now it appears that the transfer of technical assistance on the financial issues of the District may have hit a bump on its decision to furlough teaching staff.  This may be in violation of the Public School Code, based on communication from the Commonwealth, but the District maintains that the assurances they received from the state were that the process was proceeding as it should have.

Scranton is one of three districts in the state that operate on a calendar year rather than a July-June fiscal year.  A key matter in the dispute is that following the date of financial watch the General Assembly passed legislation (Act 55) to amend the Public School Code to allow for teacher layoffs due to economic reasons (which added to the existing causes for suspension).  The amended language states that, among other conditions, a district pursuing layoffs due to economic reasons has to take the action no later than 60 days prior to the adoption of the final budget.  As the letter from the District notes, there may be some dispute over what constituted the date due to financial watch and what was supposedly communicated to the District.