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Education secretary visits Erie, tours schools

ERIE, Pa. -- Pennsylvania Education of Secretary Pedro Rivera was in town Thursday to serve as the keynote speaker for the Jefferson Dinner Series, but spent the day touring some of Erie's public schools.

It's been a rough few weeks for the Erie School District as they've been going back and forth with the state about the financial recovery plan. In February, the Department of Education denied the school district's $31.8 million recovery plan that it was required to submit to the state. 

On Thursday, local leaders were hoping school visits would bring some light to the district's situation. The district is facing a $10 million deficit for the 2017-18 school year and has proposed to close two high schools and make cuts to programs. 

Superintendent Jay Badams and chief financial officer Brian Polito joined Rivera as he toured Central Tech and Pfeiffer-Burleigh Elementary school.

Sen. Dan Laughlin and state Rep. Pat Harkins also joined in on the tours. Rivera spent time learning about the career and technical training as well as other special programs available to the students at Central.

Rivera said it was great to meet such committed staff members and enthusiastic students.    

"When you walk into a classroom and see that genuine happy smile of a child and you leave and it's kind of ingrained and branded into your brain and there is no greater argument for supporting public education than seeing happy, healthy children,” Rivera said.

The dinner series, which is at the Jefferson Educational Society, is sold out. 

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