With great clarity and conviction, Harrisburg student Crystal Echeverria contrasts the stark conditions in Harrisburg schools with the opulence of surrounding towns. Crystal’s civic awareness and calls for justice are admirable.
As a dad living in the Harrisburg suburbs, I noticed the problem Crystal points out when I first set foot in my children’s Cumberland Valley elementary school—I was awestruck. This was the proverbial palace that Sam Seaborn referenced in The West Wing. And the quality of education has lived up to the promise of that palatial building.
But would it surprise you to know that Harrisburg City schools spend $20,000 per student? And would it surprise you to learn this is $5,000 more than Cumberland Valley?
While urban districts tend to spend much more than their neighboring district across the river or even next door, Cowell said they still “don’t have the sufficient resources to meet the needs of kids in these districts.”
It sure surprised the heck out of me.
How can “crumbling schools in the city” be better funded than “beautiful schools in the suburbs?” How can reality be so disconnected from the underfunding narrative we hear so often?
The fact is, the grownups in power have mismanaged the money their community sends them so badly that Harrisburg families look around and find the underfunding mantra believable. But it’s time to tell families and students the truth.
The Fair Funding formula is an issue I’ve supported and continue to support. I’d stand shoulder to shoulder with Crystal to make it happen. But an immediate transition to 100% Fair Funding—absent structural reform—will not yield the change Crystal desires and deserves. //is state takeover the structural reform you’re suggesting?///
Pouring more money into a broken system will not fix that system.
Instead, it’s time we start trusting Crystal and her family more than the system that has failed them.
Rather than layers of bureaucracy deciding what happens to Crystal’s $20,000, her parents should direct where that money goes. Perhaps then, the system would improve, and Crystal would have the education of her dreams.
Marc LeBlond is a senior policy analyst at the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free market think tank.