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Our view: Community college vote long overdue

Posted on April 23rd, 2020 at 3:40 PM

Our view: Community college vote long overdue

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Our view: Community college vote long overdue

By the Editorial Board
Posted Apr 23, 2020 at 12:04 AM
Pennsylvania Board of Education should make a decision
at its May 6 meeting.

Amid the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, business has gone on,
though hardly as usual, in occupations in which technology and worker skill sets
permit working at home.

For more than a month now, for example, we have been covering this crisis
remotely for the most part, turning to virtual meetings to do our daily planning.

Other businesses and government agencies also have scrambled to adjust their
operations to the requirements of social distancing.

That’s the context in which Erie County’s application to establish a community
college has been left in limbo, yet again. It need not remain there.

Despite a Pennsylvania Department of Education analysis that found Erie
County’s application meets all of the criteria of the state’s community college law,
the state Board of Education on Nov. 14 deemed it necessary to hold an
evidentiary hearing on the issue, which it committed to convening within six
months. Then the COVID-19 pandemic intervened.

A hearing scheduled in Erie for March 18 was canceled after Gov. Tom Wolf
placed travel restrictions on state employees and urged the cancellation of sizable
public gatherings. Local activists on both sides of the issue had planned public
rallies to coincide with the hearing and an expected Board of Education vote.
Early indications that the hearing would go on in virtual form didn’t materialize.
It’s high time that happens.

Erie County submitted its community college application to Harrisburg in June
of 2017, after all. The delay there in acting on it was unconscionable and then
some even before the cancellation of the March hearing and vote.

This week, the Erie County Community College Committee – which comprises
representatives of county government and Empower Erie, the nonprofit that has
spearheaded the community college push – called on the Board of Education to
conduct a virtual hearing on the college application and then vote on it at its next
meeting on May 6.

Because the evidentiary hearing is more a legal proceeding, not a public forum,
there’s no reason it cannot be held by teleconference and convened within the
six-month window the Board of Education committed to. It could be streamed
for public view on the Board of Education’s website.

In a letter to the board’s chairwoman, Karen Farmer White, the Community
College Committee rightly noted that the economic disruption and dislocation
caused by the COVID-19 crisis only strengthens the case and need for a
community college in the only major population center in the state without one.
The region’s economy will need additional educational and workforce
development resources even more now to recover and grow.

Erie County and its residents have been waiting for a decision from Harrisburg
going on three years now. The Board of Education owes them one in May.

https://www.goerie.com/opinion/20200423/our-view-community-college-vote-long-overdue 2/3
4/23/2020 Our view: Community college vote long overdue - Opinion - GoErie.com - Erie, PA


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