Harrisburg School District Faces Huge Shortfall – Massive Cuts And Closures On The Table

A day of reckoning is swiftly approaching for the Harrisburg City School District.  The top-heavy district is getting a reality check because of a $15 million budget deficit and the inability to get grants to fill budget holes.

Items on the chopping block are two neighborhood schools (proposed for closure), 120-150 teachers, 22 percent staff and more administrators.  Other items up for elimination are the district’s vocational and technical programs and programs for disruptive and truant students.

Director Wayne Henry was quoted as saying the district would have to start living within its means.  Director Esther Edwards said the closures were horrible but if we don’t have the money to operate, we’re going to have to do it.

The Harrisburg School District is synonymous with the City of Harrisburg.  There are 17 schools and 8,306 students.  The district spends $13,182 per pupil.  There are 11 students for every full-time equivalent teacher.  The dropout rate is 6 percent.  21 percent of students have and IEP and 8 percent are ELL.  Data from education.com based on 2008 data.

According to Wikipedia, in 2011 Harrisburg SD ranked 494th out of 498 school districts in Pennsylvania for academic achievement.  Harrisburg High School’s 2010 graduation rate was 79 percent and the school is in year 7 of corrective action for chronically low student achievement.  In 2009 a Pennsylvania Dept of Education study revealed that 67 percent of Harrisburg High School graduates needed costly remediation in math and reading before they were prepared to take college courses.

21-Year-Old Harrisburg Area Community College Student Running For Harrisburg City School Board

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County

Image via Wikipedia

I am always glad to read stories about young people who want get involved and make a difference.  A young woman and student at Harrisburg Area Community College is running for a Harrisburg City School Board seat.  In an interesting turn of events, a candidate supported by Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson challenged Destini Hodges’ candidacy.  Autumn Cooper was trying to make sure everyone running was “legit”.  Hmmmmmmm…

Fortunately, Commonwealth Court upheld a March 21st decision by Dauphin County Judge, Scott Evans to allow Destini to stay on the ballot for the May 17th Democratic primary. 

We find Ms. Cooper’s motives rather questionable.  Ms. Cooper was appointed to the former board of control by Mayor Linda Thompson last year.  This year Ms. Cooper is being supported by Linda Thompson for a seat on the school board.  The fact that the first ruling was appealed to Commonwealth Court is ridiculous.

Our advice to Ms. Cooper is to not take any wooden nickels from the mayor.

Harrisburg City School District Approves Budget With Massive Layoffs

The Harrisburg City School District board of control has approved a tentative $136,000,000.00 budget which slashes 137 jobs to fill a $22,000,000.00 shortfall in the budget!  95 teachers, more than 40 support positions, 66 non-certified emergency teachers, 2 assistant superintendents, 1 principal and 10 central office positions.  I think they forgot the partridge in a pear tree.  The staff cuts only make up 1/2 of the $22,000,000.00 shortfall.

Staff cuts are expected to come from the most recently hired according to Rich Askey, President of the Harrisburg Education Association.

The Harrisburg School District has 8000 students and 1200 faculty and staff.  There are 15 schools in the district.  Harrisburg High School has a very high drop out rate (21%).  Harrisburg City School District is consistently ranked at the bottom of Pennsylvania’s 498 school districts.  In 2009 the district was ranked 496th!  The district is in Corrective Action II, 7th year.

Things could be much worse!