Equity or Bust: Are Ontario Public Schools A Model For Pennsylvania?

Dec 26, 2016


Principal David Crichton, with students at Rose Avenue Public School in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Credit Ian Willms / Keystone Crossroads

What a difference a two hour drive can make.

Students in Erie, Pa. attend a public school district that’s teetering on the brink of collapse. 

Staffing has been downsized to bare-bones levels. Many of the schools are badly in need of repairs. And the superintendent has proposed shuttering all high schools.

The city district, though, is surrounded on all sides by better-resourced suburban schools that serve less needy children.  This is the hallmark of Pennsylvania’s K-12 landscape: stark resource discrepancies between schools in different zip codes.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education labeled Pa.’s system “the most inequitable in the nation.”

But if those students in Erie were born just two hours north in the Canadian province of Ontario, they’d have a completely different outlook.

That system — though close geographically, and similar in terms of size and overall levels of diversity — offers a distinctly different vision of public education.

In this five-part Keystone Crossroads’ series, with input from stakeholders on both sides, we study that divide.