Erie School District threatens to close high schools

Local News

The Erie School District releases dramatic plans Wednesday for possible closure of all high schools, in order to save money.

Currently, the district is facing a $10.3 million budget deficit for FY 2016-2017, with $6 million in cuts already determined. That means the district still faces a $4.3 million budget shortfall.

Wednesday evening at a public school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Jay Badams presented plans which encompassed two things: proposed cuts to close the $4.3 million gap in the 2016-2017 budget as well as a long-term proposal to close the city’s four public high schools, an action which the district says would not happen until 2017-2018.

In a statement, the district said, “according to the findings of the Basic Education Funding Commission in 2015, Erie’s Public Schools is underfunded by more than $37 million and, as a result, spends less per pupil than 80% of districts in the state.”

With that statement in mind, Badams presented to the board the following options for 2016-17 in order to close that remaining $4.3 budget gap:

Budget option/ Projected Savings/ Revenue
Eliminate all art and music classes – $2,100,000
Eliminate all sports and extra-curricular activities – $1,500,000
Raise real estate taxes by 3.7% – $1,428,200
Eliminate full day kindergarten – $1,100,000
Eliminate district police department – $939,000
Close one high school – $900,000
Close all school libraries – $660,330
Downsize elementary school principals – $400,000
Downsize elementary school guidance counselors – $360,000
Eliminate all technology purchases – $165,000

Regarding the possible closure of Strong Vincent, Collegiate Academy, Central Tech and East high schools, the district’s statement continued, saying their proposal is:

“…pursuant to section 1607 of the Pennsylvania Public School Code (the “School Code”), which does not require school districts to provide education beyond Grade 8. According to the School Code, students in districts that no longer offer high school would be permitted to attend ‘the nearest or most conveniently located high school’ in other districts. In such a situation, the home district is required to provide limited transportation. In light of the extreme financial cuts being considered, including the elimination of all athletic programs, arts/music classes and other opportunities, Dr. Badams will ask the board to begin to consider this option for the 2017-18 school year in order to provide a way for the district’s students to maintain access to equitable high school opportunities. In this scenario, the district would also realize a financial savings of approximately $3 million which could be re-invested in the district’s PreK-8 programs to achieve equity with the rest of Erie County’s elementary schools.”

Erie School Board President Bob Casillo, Dr.Badams and board member Ed Brzezinski refused to comment on the proposal before Wednesday’s meeting.

More from the meeting coming up Wednesday night at 10 on FOX 66 and 11 on JET 24 Action News.

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