Siegrid Tuttle
3 min readJan 17, 2021

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men, — the balance wheel of the social machinery.”

“One of the great civil injustices is to say we’re going to make your education dependent on your Zip code.”

Public education, institution once seen by liberals as the greatest tool for creating equality in the world, has become the greatest perpetrator of inequality in the United States. Especially in Pennsylvania, where, according to Governor Wolf “School districts with the highest poverty rates receive one-third fewer state and local tax dollars, per pupil, than the most affluent districts.” Especially in the Western-most county in Pennsylvania, where 13 school districts (7 of which serve fewer than 2,000 students) receive radically different levels of funding and resources. The poorest district in the County, Erie City School District, spends around 13,000 dollars per student annually. The state average is 15,000 dollars. Erie City School District has gone into debt while still spending less money per student then 80% of districts in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, the nearby, more affluent districts of Fairview and Millcreek surpass the state average per pupil spending easily each year. This is despite the fact that Erie residents pay higher property taxes than residents of Millcreek or Fairview.

The solution to this inequality in education — which arms the county’s most impoverished students with the fewest resources and, in doing so, sets them up for failure — is simple: merge districts and share funding. Erie City School District cannot raise the same amount of money as more affluent suburban districts because Erie City is a poorer tax base then Fairview or Millcreek, for example. The state is supposed to give all students an equal education, regardless of income. By letting richer families barricade themselves in bubbles of wealth, cut loose from any responsibility to their fellow (more impoverished) Americans, Erie County has betrayed its mission to treat all children equally, regardless of their parent’s income. This must end.

Maryland has one school district for each of its 15 counties. This means that students from impoverished areas and rich areas alike are in the same school districts, if not the same schools. Therefore, impoverished students are not systematically given less from the moment they step into preschool. In fact, according to a Georgetown University study, “since infusions of cash into poor districts have often failed to equalize student achievement between poor and rich districts, eliminating the school district segregation between rich and poor is the only viable option” for equal education.

The simplest, and most effective way for Erie County to give every student access to the same resources is a county-wide school district merger. The beauty of the plan is that it would substantially increase funding and school quality in Erie’s poorest districts, without the need for busing or combining schools. But, one of the most exciting parts of the plan is that it could be used to integrate schools based on economic class. Studies have shown that all students benefit from economic diversity. A merger would give the county administration countless education options they did not have before, county-wide magnet schools could be established, activities and trips through the school district which any student could attend could be started, busing could be shared, schools could be merged. And, in its most basic form, a merger would save millions on administrative costs while delivering every student in Erie a more equal education.