Letter to Harrisburg School District outlines $10.9M cut

Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – An already financially starved district is losing a big piece of its pie. 

Six percent of Harrisburg School District’s budget was suspended Wednesday after district officials refused to fully comply with a state audit by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

“I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted because it doesn’t end,” said Jayne Buchwach, a taxpayer and school board candidate. 

“Them fighting PDE, I think, is the ultimate bad decision that they’ve made,” said Gerald Welch, another board candidate who has grandchildren in the district. 

That “bad” decision was not following state orders to provide third-party access to employee information. Board President Danielle Robinson told ABC27 on Wednesday that they weren’t refusing to provide Education with information, just direct access.

In a letter sent to the superintendent, the department said, “the district’s failure to fully cooperate with the audit … constitutes a material breach of the district’s obligations.” 

“They saying that they’re protecting information, protecting information that PDE already has,” Welch said. 

“I don’t care what anybody says, you don’t stand up and tell me ‘children first’ and then have actions like we’ve seen,” Buchwach said. 

The letter details each program where funding would be lost, including Title I, which provides financial assistance for districts with a high percentage of low-income families, and Title III EL, which helps students who are English learners. 

“This is school lunches. These are programs, special ed programs,” Buchwach said. 

Chief Financial Recovery Officer Dr. Janet Samuels was tasked last year by the Education Department to create a financial recovery plan for the district. During a community meeting about that plan, she didn’t directly answer questions about the suspended funds, but she said this when asked if she is hopeful for the future: 

“It’s very important to pull together, collaborate and remain hopeful. Again, this is about the business of supporting students in this district,” Samuels said. 

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