HARRISBURG, June 18, 2019 — The Senate Majority Policy Committee and Senate Democratic Policy Committee yesterday jointly held a public workshop to discuss possible school district consolidation.
“With 500 school districts in Pennsylvania this issue must be reviewed carefully,” said Senate Majority Policy chair David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks). “Senator Boscola and I hosted this bipartisan workshop to consider the benefits and disadvantages of school district consolidation. In Maryland, each of that state’s 23 counties and the city of Baltimore only has one school district. Do we really need 500?”
“Our goal for the workshop was to listen to stakeholders from across Pennsylvania about the potential impacts — both good and bad — resulting from school district consolidation,” said Senate Democratic Policy chair Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton). “Any proposal that would potentially keep taxpayer dollars in the pockets of citizens and improve our public education system is worth studying.”
The state had 2,506 school districts when mandated statewide consolidation occurred in 1972 — reducing that number to 528. The last school district consolidation occurred in 2008 when Monaca and Center school districts in Beaver County voluntarily formed the Central Valley School District. There are currently 500 districts in Pennsylvania.
The workshop focused on numerous issues and challenges, ranging from differing local tax rates and debt levels to teacher contracts, school board make-up and local identity and control.
In describing community resistance to school consolidation proposals, Boscola quoted former state Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria), who joked in a 2016 senate floor speech, “I know how to kill a werewolf. I know how to kill a vampire. But I don’t know how to kill a school mascot.”
Joining the roundtable discussion were Senators Pam Iovino (D-Allegheny) Tim Kearney (D-Chester/Delaware), Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), Judy Schwank (D-Berks), Pat Stefano (R-Fayette/Somerset/Westmoreland), Shariff Street (D-Phila.), Judy Ward (R-Blair/Fulton/Cumberland/Franklin/Huntingdon), and Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny).
The following joined the lawmakers for the discussion:
- John Callahan, Chief Advocacy Advisor, Pennsylvania School Boards Association;
- Yelena “Helen” Khanzhina, Public Policy Analyst, Joint State Government Commission;
- Eric Montarti, Research Director, Allegheny Institute for Public Policy; and
- Glen Pasewicz, Executive Director, Joint State Government Commission