Harrisburg School District Budget Cuts Jobs, Closes Schools, Raises Taxes

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The Harrisburg School District's mayor-appointed Board of Control voted 5-to-1 Wednesday to cut jobs, close schools, and increase taxes with a new budget -- all to fill a $22 million-dollar gap.

The children in the district will have about 100 fewer teachers under the new spending plan.

They might also be attending classes in different buildings.

The new budget shutters William Penn High School, moving vo-tech programs to Harrisburg Area Community College's midtown campus.

The spending plan also closes Steele School - the district's smallest elementary.

Administrators say the cuts come while supposedly keeping class sizes below 30 students per room.

"When you cut 100 classroom teachers out of a school district, you are not going to meet the class sizes that were presented to the board tonight," Rich Askey, president of the Harrisburg Education Association, said.

The plan also slices administrative staff by 28 percent, and looks at getting the district out from under a half-million-dollar lease on its administration building on North Front Street.

"It's like this all over the country in every city," board of control chair Gloria Martin-Roberts said. "Hard decisions have to be made."

The budget also calls for a 4.4 percent tax hike, the largest allowed by the state.

Harrisburg's exiled elected school board will have to approve any tax increase.

They could get a crack at the budget if the reins to the district are handed over on June 30.

There is currently a battle in the state legislature over extending the act that gives Harrisburg's mayor the power to appoint a school board of control.

The state House has voted to kill a proposal by Dauphin County Senator Jeff Piccola that would prevent the school board from taking over, and keep the board of control in place for three more years.

Piccola's bill earlier passed in the Senate.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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