The Future of Erie’s Schools

Friday, May 27th, 2016 at 7:01 AM
The Future of Erie’s Schools by County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper
Contributed photo

As the County Executive I see the positive things happening across the county and the engaged citizens working hard to move our community forward. And yet negative headlines too often dominate the news. Last week, we were dealt another blow when the Erie School District’s dire financial situation captured the headlines. 

The Erie School District is in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis due to years of underfunding of public education by the State of Pennsylvania. After enduring six consecutive years of severe budget cuts and facing a $10 million deficit, the school board is now facing cataclysmic circumstances and impossible decisions. As a result, the region is facing the possibility of closing all high schools within the City of Erie if leadership in Harrisburg does not find a solution to school funding inequities.

The Erie School District has made tough decisions year after year; and has been forced to strip away programs and resources from the youth in our community who need it most. To put this crisis in context, the City of Erie would need a 25.5 percent tax increase to save the schools. This is especially impactful when considering the fact that the school district receives less money per pupil than 80 percent of districts state-wide and less than any other district in Erie County.

Across Pennsylvania, a recent study found that the school districts with the highest poverty rate receive an average of 17 percent less funding from the state. The bottom line is that Pennsylvania’s school funding formula is unbalanced, and our children and families are suffering as a result.

This is not just a problem for the City of Erie. The consequences of closing City of Erie schools will have a ripple effect across Erie County. In the long term, this will be a detriment to economic recovery within the City of Erie and the entire region. The health and vitality of the county is intrinsically linked with the health and vitality of the city. We must approach this issue with these undeniable connections in mind, and work collaboratively to find the best path forward. Collectively, we must be concerned about the future of all children.

I feel the deep concern that so many are feeling as we face the closing of our schools, and will not let Erie County be forgotten by the legislature in Harrisburg. The Erie County delegation to the state legislature has been fighting for Erie’s school children and I commend them for their dedication to public education. 

Many have asked me over the past weeks what they can do to help. It is time now to add our voices to theirs and contact the leadership in the State House and State Senate (see contact info below). We need to let them know that our children here in Erie County deserve better. School districts across the state are struggling as we are in Erie County, and we need innovative leadership to do more for public education and to bring fairness to public education funding.

Contact Information for an Education Letter to State Leadership

Gov. Tom Wolf

508 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120

(717) 787-2500

Speaker of the House: Hon. Mike Turzai

139 Main Capitol, PO Box 202028, Harrisburg, PA 17120

(717) 772-9943 

House Majority Leader: Hon. Dave Reed

110 Main Capitol Building, PO Box 202062, Harrisburg, PA 17120

 (717) 705-7173 

House Minority Leader: Hon. Frank Dermody

423 Main Capitol Building, PO Box 202033, Harrisburg, PA 17120

 (717) 787-3566 

President of the Senate: Hon. Mike Stack

200 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120

(717) 787-3300

Senate Majority Leader: Hon. Jake Corman  

350 Main Capitol, Senate Box 203034, Harrisburg, PA 17120

(717) 787-1377 

Senate Minority Leader: Hon. Jay Costa 

Room: 535 Main Capitol, Senate Box 203043, Harrisburg, PA 17120

(717) 787-7683 

Education Committee Chair (Senate): Hon. Lloyd K. Smucker

351 Main Capitol, Senate Box 203013, Harrisburg, PA 17120-3013

(717) 787-6535 

Education Com. Minority Leader (Senate): Hon. Andrew Dinniman

182 Main Capitol, Senate Box 203019, Harrisburg, PA 17120-3019

(717) 787-5709 

Education Committee Chair (House): Hon. Stan Saylor

105 Ryan Office Building, PO Box 202094, Harrisburg, PA 17120

 (717) 783-6426 

Education Com. Democratic Chair (House): Hon. James R. Roebuck Jr.

208 Irvis Office Building, PO Box 202188, Harrisburg, PA 17120

(717) 783-1000 

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