Duquesne Board of Control, Allegheny Intermediate Unit hail passage of SB 441
Duquesne City School District’s state-appointed Board of Control and the agency that runs day-to-day operations at Duquesne Education Center are hailing state House approval of Senate Bill 441.
Sponsors of SB 441 said it will remedy an unconstitutional provision in Act 45 of 2007, which mandated the transfer on a tuition basis of Duquesne students to high schools in two neighboring districts.
As passed by the House Monday and sent to Gov. Ed Rendell, it will allow continuation of the transfer.
In a joint statement Tuesday, the BOC and officials of the Homestead-based Allegheny Intermediate Unit said they were pleased that the General Assembly acted in a timely fashion.
“Duquesne families can be assured that the education of their children will not be disrupted,” the statement read. “Duquesne’s high school students who attend class at either East Allegheny or West Mifflin Area will continue with their courses at those districts.”
AIU has a contract with the district and Pennsylvania Department of Education to oversee day-to-day operations at DEC, where classes are handled from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“We are doing absolutely everything we can to ensure that our children will receive the high-quality public education that they deserve,” said Dr. Linda B. Hippert, who as AIU executive director is superintendent of record in Duquesne. “No student is being left out.”
In a unanimous decision Sept. 30, the state Supreme Court agreed with attorneys for West Mifflin Area, East Allegheny and South Allegheny districts that Act 45 created “a closed class of one school district, namely, Duquesne, rendering it per se unconstitutional.”
The high court zeroed in on a provision in Act 45 covering a third-class school district that “has been placed on the education empowerment list” as designated by the state secretary of education.
At one time Aliquippa, Clairton, Steelton-Highspire, Sto-Rox and Wilkinsburg were on that list, but Duquesne was the only district on the list when Act 45 was passed.
House Bill 842, the legislation that became Act 45, was what lawmakers would term a Christmas tree, on which amendments were hung on three occasions.
One area lawmaker, state Rep. Paul Costa, D-Wilkins Township, signed on to HB 842 as it went to the Senate for the first time.
Costa, whose district includes part of East Allegheny School District, remained a sponsor through subsequent rewritings of HB 842, including the fourth that included the Duquesne amendment.
In the end, a conference committee worked out a compromise version of HB 842 that included the Duquesne amendment.
Costa did not vote on the bill that became Act 45, while Reps. Marc Gergely of White Oak, Bill Kortz of Dravosburg and Joseph Markosek of Monroeville were among only eight Democratic no votes. HB 842 was passed by a 125-75 vote.
SB 441 was amended by Costa’s brother, state Sen. Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills, as part of its seventh and final printing, along with other Senate amendments that required House concurrence. Sen. Costa’s amendment erased the reference to the education empowerment list.
Gergely and Kortz said it erased a provision requiring nearby districts to hire laid-off Duquesne High School teachers for available vacancies. That was the provision that brought South Allegheny into the Act 45 lawsuit.
The House voted 195-1 to approve the amended SB 441 with all area lawmakers among the yes votes.
The only no vote was by Rep. Richard T. Grucela, D-Nazareth, who had been prime sponsor of the 2007 bill that became Act 45, but withdrew his name before final passage. Grucela did not run for re-election this year.