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Assessment of Erie school: ‘I thought I was in Baghdad’

By   /   March 15, 2017  /   No Comments

Funding for the debt-ridden Erie school district is becoming a topic of statewide discussion, and not in a good way.

“I thought I was in Baghdad,” was state Sen. Scott Wagner’s description of Central Tech during a recent education budget hearing, as reported by Erie News Now.

AP Photo/Marc Levy

WAR ZONE? Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner compared an Erie school to an Iraqi war zone and said the state should be “ashamed” of the deteriorated conditions.

Wagner, who is a Republican candidate for governor in 2018, said he encountered a leaky roof and falling plaster, as well as a couple of inoperable boilers.

“It’s disgusting; I’m ashamed,” said Wagner, who represents a York-area district. “I think Pennsylvania should be ashamed that a school district has allowed buildings to deteriorate. They can’t get funding.”

Brian Polito, the chief financial officer for the Erie School District, told Watchdog in an email that there is a growing awareness in Harrisburg that Erie’s problems cannot be solved locally. He said he agreed that the schools are in need of renovation. Still, he stressed, “outstanding teaching and learning happens in them every day.”

Pennsylvania Democrats were quick to criticize, based on his votes against two appropriations bills that would have increased general education spending.

Erie’s buildings aren’t the only things at risk of the roof caving in. The district is on the verge of insolvency and has been trying to get state funds to stay in business.

Despite Democrats’ cries of hypocrisy aimed at Wagner, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget would provide the district only $1.5 million toward the $10 million deficit it faces this year.

Polito told Watchdog the school district is at risk of running out of money by May or June 2018.

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