Erie’s Public School Crisis…Executive Committee Reflection

May 10, 2016

Inter-Church Ministries’ Executive Committee Members Share Their Reflection on Erie’s Public School Crisis

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because you have rejected knowledge…” Hosea 4:6

As a network of Christian laity and clergy who live in Erie County, we share common concerns about challenges confronting Erie Public Schools.  As citizens, we do not believe the education of the County’s children is simply a “political” question in any conventional sense.  The education of our children is a moral issue, indeed a moral imperative.  We recall the warning of the prophet Hosea, “My children are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”  The synoptic gospels relate Christ’s injunction “to let the children come to me.”

We believe that the future of the county, the state and the nation is inseparable from the quality of public education.  The situation confronting Erie Public Schools is both financially and materially critical.  This year our city school system may easily slide into a situation of “financial distress” (bankruptcy), while personnel reductions and material decay register continued neglect by officials in Harrisburg.  Were it possible, Erie School officials would prefer to address local needs through local resources, an impossible goal.  City school taxes cannot be raised; compensation for enrollment in local charter schools has been suspended; pension commitments have escalated.  Meanwhile, per student expenditure falls below 80% of other Pennsylvania school districts, while the district educates some of the state’s largest share of special needs students and those whose native language is not English.  We remember Christ’s call to care for “the least of my brethren” and “to welcome the stranger.”  Among Pennsylvania school districts, Erie has the highest share of families living in poverty.  The destiny of Pennsylvania’s people, its economy and society depend on primary and secondary education.

We implore Pennsylvania’s elected officials to recognize the crisis of Erie’s schools through adopting what is understood as a “Fair Funding Formula.”  Our goal must be one of achieving financial stability of all Pennsylvania schools.  We encourage our fellow clergy and laity to bring the Commonwealth’s school crisis to the attention of their congregations, while avoiding framing the issue in any partisan sense that does not express the universal benefit of education.

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