The Chester Community Charter School (CCCS) has sued the Chester Upland School District, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and the state, seeking $3.8 million in delinquent funds.
The suit, filed Wednesday in Commonwealth Court, claims that the district has defaulted on 10 consecutive payments to the charter school.
The district said this month that it was deep in debt and expected to run out of money in January.
CCCS, the state's largest kindergarten-through-eighth-grade charter school, and the smaller Widener Partnership Charter School enroll 3,025 students. There are 3,658 students in Chester Upland district schools.
The lawsuit says CCCS is "in peril because it is not receiving the public funds" to meet its obligations. At times it has overcome shortfalls by delaying vendor payments or obtaining short-term loans.
The 13-year-old school is owed an additional $18 million through the end of the 2011-12 school year.
The lawsuit is not the only one the district has to contend with, said Joseph T, Doyle, an attorney for CCCS.
On Friday, an application to amend a 2009 lawsuit was filed. That asks for $19 million "to try to force the school district and Department of Education to pay for the underfunding [that occurred] because of the intentional miscalculation of the payment formula," Doyle said.
Chester Upland spends about $39.4 million a year - 40 percent of its budget - on required payments to the charter schools.
In June, the district was hit with a cut of about 11 percent in state funding.
The Chester Upland board appealed to Gov. Corbett for an advance of $18.7 million in state subsidies. The request was denied last week.
The state contends Chester Upland has shown disregard for its budgetary responsibilities and has failed to adjust to economic realities.
Chester Upland's student poverty rate is 77 percent, one of the highest in the state. It also has the highest school tax rate in Delaware County.
Between 1994 and July 2010 the district was under state control.