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We have no idea if Trump can deliver on those promises, but we can explore what it’s going to take for him to try. Here’s how bad things had become for the chronically broken public school system in Erie, Pennsylvania: Earlier this year, Superintendent Jay Badams floated a proposal to close the city’s high schools — all four of them — and pay tuition to send kids to better-funded schools in the surrounding county.The pushback, Badams said, was intense.“One of the ones that sticks with me is that, ‘We hope you solve your financial problems.Among the biggest districts in Pennsylvania by land mass, it consolidated elementary schools but maintains four high schools.It streamlined transportation under a central department that oversees 10,250 daily miles of bus travel, nearly 1.9 million miles each year.Yet consolidation is so rare in Pennsylvania that researchers have few examples in recent years to forecast such effects.“There's no guarantee that costs will go down,” said Arnold Hillman, a consultant with the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools.More Erie families are choosing charters as an alternative to what they view as failing district schools.Those students are scattered across the city, so the district doesn’t save that much on overhead.“One of the fallacies of the whole notion of school choice as being away to improve the actual public school system is that when you take resources away from the schools that you’re hoping will compete, you make them less competitive,” Badams said.

Warren County School District, near Erie, struck some middle ground, running a countywide operation that covers 792 square miles under one administration.

But, partly due to the way Pennsylvania’s convoluted funding formula works, Erie city receives up to ,000 less revenue per student than schools in the surrounding county.“If we’re going to be offering kids an inequitable high school experience, something that’s vastly inferior in terms of resources to what’s available to students outside the city limits, we thought it was an ethical decision,” Badams said.

In the end, the district went with a less radical plan to consolidate its schools, making better On a recent evening, the district’s chief financial officer, Brian Polito, unveiled the plan to a packed gym at the John F. He clicked through a series of charts showing just how bad the crisis is.

“There's nothing left to cut.”Beyond the broken funding formula, employee pensions are a big drain.

The district also hands over close to 15 percent of its budget to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run.


  1. Shrinking schools. In rural Pennsylvania, school districts are shedding students. Could consolidation save them? July 11, 2017. By Stephanie Hacke. Valerie Brooks remembers a time when Greene County was thriving and teens had plenty to do not far from home. In her native Waynesburg, the youth once had their choice.

  2. Feb 4, 2009. "Almost everyone agrees that Pennsylvania has too many school districts," Mr. Rendell said. "This means that we have ever-increasing pressure to increase local property taxes." While the topic of school consolidation is nothing new, the concept of only 100 school districts would be a dramatic change.

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