Imagine living in a city where the public schools have been underfunded for years, and school officials threaten to close all of its high schools and bus students out to the surrounding suburban school districts.
This was the nightmare scenario in Erie, a city of about 100,000 residents, in the far northwestern corner of Pennsylvania.
School buildings are crumbling, spending on extra-curricular and sports programs has been slashed, and there’s a $10 million school budget deficit. The state came in with a one-time bailout of cash to keep Erie schools afloat, but the district still faces similar struggles.
For now, school district officials have backed off closing all four of the high schools. Instead, they’re planning on consolidating and shutting down two of the high schools for the 2017-2018 school year.
On episode 15 of Grapple, we take you to Erie and hear from parents, teachers, students, and school officials — about how years of budget cuts and underfunding impact a school community.
Erie’s story raises broader questions about education equality, and to what extent kids can be successful when they go to schools with limited resources.