House OK's bill to allow Duquesne students to transferEdit

Tuesday, November 16, 2010, by Mary Niederberger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; 412-851-1512.

The ability of Duquesne high school students to continue attending West Mifflin Area and East Allegheny high schools is expected to be maintained by legislation that was approved by the state House of Representatives on Monday.

In a release, state Reps. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, and Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, said the new language is aimed to address the concerns of the state Supreme Court, which ruled on Sept. 30, 2010, that the 2007 law that allowed for the reassignments of the Duquesne students was illegal because it was too narrow in focus.

The state board of control overseeing the Duquesne district closed the high school in June 2007. Shortly afterward the legislature approved an amendment to the school code that allowed the state education secretary to reassign the students to West Mifflin and East Allegheny high schools.

Those districts, along with South Allegheny, filed suit over the transfers.

The Supreme Court agreed with the school districts in their contention that the law was so narrowly constructed that it applied only to Duquesne and therefore amounted to "special legislation."

The case was sent back to Commonwealth Court.

But Mr. Kortz and Mr. Gergely said in their release that the new legislation allows the education department to transfer students in any third-class school district operating under a special board of control that has closed its high school to two or more neighboring districts.

Those districts would be paid tuition for the students from the distressed district and the new districts must be located within three miles of the borders of the distressed district.

It also calls for the formation of an advisory committee that will include officials of the various school districts, residents and education department. The new legislation does not include the stipulation that surrounding districts hire the teachers laid off by the high school closure. That detail in the original legislation is what prompted the South Allegheny district to join the suit.

The bill was sent to the governor.

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