West Mifflin School District Settles Dispute With State Over Funding For Duquesne Students

Sep 8, 2017

The West Mifflin School Board approved the terms of a settlement Thursday night in a special meeting, ending a years-long legal fight over funding with the state Department of Education.

The district argued that neighboring Duquesne School District wasn’t paying enough to send students to West Mifflin.

Duquesne began sending students to West Mifflin in 2007 when the state closed the financially distressed high school because of low test scores. Five years later junior high students also transferred to West Mifflin.

That year, West Mifflin Superintendent Dan Castagna says Duquesne received a bump in funding from the state, but that that money should have been transferred to where students were attending school.

“We went back to the state and basically said, ‘We don’t want to file a lawsuit but look at the facts that we have here.' It’s unfortunate we had to spend resources on attorney fees here when I think it was just a basic mathematics problem and it wasn’t about anything else,” he said.

The district sued the state last year for the $800,000 dollars it says it was owed. As part of the settlement, Duquese will pay West Mifflin a half million dollars in the next two months and will increase what it pays per student by nearly 11 percent for this school year. The per-student rate will also increase by at least 2 percent in coming years.

Castagna said the district has had to do more with less.

“Every year we are facing, ‘do we cut staff, do we cut programs?’ This is going to help alleviate some of that. Definitely in this year’s budget and next year’s budget. We’re not out of the woods yet. By any means this isn’t a fix all for the district,” he said. “But it is a substantial aid, I will say that.”

In a statement to West Mifflin School Board members asking them to approve the settlement, Castagna said he trusts that the settlement will, “be a continuation of a more collaborative relationship moving forward.”

The state Department of Education declined to comment on the case. Duquesne School District did not respond to a request for comment.