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Budget crisis prompts state Department of Education to prepare shutdown checklist for school districts

| Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, 7:45 p.m.

The state Department of Education has developed a checklist for school districts in case they are forced to shut down because of a funding shortage.

The memo, dated Tuesday, arrived as the state approaches its ninth month without a complete budget for 2015-16.

All school districts rely heavily on funds from the state, and the budget impasse has forced some to take out loans.

The Education Department drafted the checklist in response to questions from school districts about what steps they would need to take if they were forced to close.

“This is not to suggest that any school district closures are imminent,” said Jeffrey Sheridan, spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf.

According to the memo, “closure of a school district for lack of funds is an unprecedented event that has not been contemplated in the Public School Code.”

The checklist suggests that districts develop a plan to ensure the needs of special education students are met. It advises district officials to review their collective bargaining agreements and outline a plan for debt payments.

Shutting down a district would take about 60 days, according to the memo.

Wolf this month outlined a proposed $32.7 billion state budget for 2016-17. The budget plan would expand sales taxes to boost education spending and close a $2 billion deficit in 2017.

Wolf has said that without a balanced budget next year, the impact on education would be disastrous, because the looming deficit would result in substantial cuts to school funding.

Tony Raap is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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