FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ'S)
Q. What is Act 141?
Called the School District Financial Recovery Law, Act 141 (PA House
Bill 1307) is legislation designed to help financially distressed
schools and ensure education for the students of these schools. This
law requires the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to develop
an early warning system that will be used by the Department of Education
to identify school districts in financial watch status. A district
will be declared in Financial Watch Status if it meets the criteria
established by the PDE based on data that the district is required to
provide. School districts may be declared in Moderate Financial
Recovery Status or Severe Financial Recovery Status. The PDE must
officially notify districts in financial watch status and continue to
provide technical assistance to these districts. The PDE will appoint a
Chief Recovery Officer (CRO) for each district in financial recovery
status. The CRO is charged with taking input from the School Board and
the community to develop a recovery plan to lead the district into
financial solvency and position it for academic success. The law also
requires PDE to establish the Recovery School District Transitional Loan
Program, which allows school districts in financial recovery status to
apply for an interest-free loan in order to implement parts of their
financial recovery plan.
Q. When was House Bill 1307 signed into law?
A. Governor Tom Corbett signed House Bill 1307 into law on July 12, 2012, and it is now designated at Act 141 of 2012.
Q. Does the Harrisburg school district qualify as “distressed?”
Yes. On Wednesday, December 12, 2012, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of
Education Ronald Tomalis designated Harrisburg’s school district in
“moderate financial recovery” status.
Q. What is the difference between moderate financial distress and severe financial distress?
A school district in moderate financial distress enables a Chief
Recovery Officer ninety days to develop a recovery plan. In a district
in severe financial distress the Chief Recovery Officer has thirty days
to develop the plan. There are a variety of other differences between
the two designations, including the requirement to appoint an Advisory
Committee in moderately distressed districts.
Q. Do other school districts in Pennsylvania qualify as “fiscally distressed?”
Only nine districts can be in financial recovery status at any one time
under the law. Four urban districts, including the Harrisburg School
District, have received preliminary declarations as districts in
Q. What is a Chief Recovery Officer (CRO)?
Declaring a district in financial distress triggers the appointment by
the state Secretary of Education of a qualified individual to develop a
recovery plan. This person carries the title of Chief Recovery Officer.
Q. Does the Harrisburg School District have a CRO?
On December 12, 2012, Education Secretary Ron Tomalis appointed Gene G.
Veno as Chief Recovery Officer (CRO). As required by law, Veno
presented a plan to the school board in April 2013 for their approval.
Effective July 1, 2015, Education Secretary Pedro Rivera appointed Dr.
Audrey Utley as the Chief Recovery Officer to oversee the fiscal
recovery of the district and assist district leaders in leveraging
resources to support academic achievement.
Q. What type of background does CRO Utley have for this role?
Dr. Utley has spent more than 40 years working in both suburban and
urban school districts across the commonwealth. She has experience as a
parent, teacher, principal, superintendent, and school board member.
Q. What are the objectives of the plan?
The recovery plan establishes a framework for leading the district into
financial solvency and positions it for academic success. The
objective is to provide the district with an opportunity to improve the
education of its students and prepare them for college and the workplace
Q. What are the objectives for our children?
The objectives of the Recovery Plan for the Harrisburg schools are
designed to offer every student an opportunity to achieve and succeed.
Each of our children must be equipped with the skills required to not
only meet the state performance standards, but to successfully graduate
from high school. We must create new educational experiences for
students that prepare them to succeed in college and in the workplace.
Q. What types of things will be included in the CRO’s plan to the school board?
To build a framework that will serve as the guide to the successful
recovery of the school district, the CRO and a team of experts will
study all aspects of the district, from academics and extracurricular
programs to building functions and viability, labor contracts,
technology, and security, along with revenue and expenses. The plan
will be a starting place in determining how to best meet the needs of
district students and will be revised as needed.
Q. How can a plan be developed if the district is in moderate financial distress?
Consulting firm, Public Financial Management, was hired by the state
education department to provide technical support, including analyzing
data, making projections and helping an advisory committee develop ideas
for the future. Starting with a financial baseline, the advisory
committee will assess district needs and determine how much money comes
into the district through federal, state, and local public sources. The
plan could include a wide range of ideas from charter school
conversations to cutting programs.
Q. Did the CRO develop this plan?
The CRO assembled an advisory committee, in accordance with the law,
and worked with a collaboration of partners to solicit ideas. The CRO
Advisory Committee is comprised of Harrisburg school administrators,
school board members, community members and other involved educators.
The committee meets at least one time each month. In addition, the state
provides the CRO with a technical assistance team to review the
Harrisburg school district’s budget and help determine the financial
viability of different recovery options. Consulting firm, Public
Financial Management, was hired by the state education department to
analyze data, make projections and help the team develop ideas for the
Q. What is the timeframe for developing a recovery plan for the Harrisburg School District?
The law requires the plan be presented to the school board within 90
days of the appointment of the CRO, which was December 12, 2012.
Q. How will the plan and the process impact the financial recovery of the Harrisburg school district?
A. The entire process is meant to get Harrisburg schools on the right path financially and academically.
Q. What happens after the plan is presented?
The elected school board must vote within ten days of March 12 to
accept the plan. If the board accepts the plan, the CRO submits a copy
of the plan to the Secretary of Education within five days of the
board’s approval. Within ten days of the CRO’s submission of the plan
to the secretary, the secretary shall approve the plan in a written
statement. The school board has 364 days to implement the plan.
Did the parents and other interested members of the public have any
opportunities to provide input into the plan? When will the public hear
the details of the plan?
A. Public forums were held for
the Harrisburg School District community to discuss the financial and
academic recovery declaration for Harrisburg and explain the procedure
for developing and implementing a financial recovery plan. A forum to
learn about the Chief Recovery Officer’s report for the school district
was also held. The forums were open to the public. The monthly
meetings of the CRO Advisory Committee are open to the public.