Harris advocates for East Chicago schools debt relief

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INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Earl Harris Jr. (D-East Chicago) today proposed an amendment to Senate Bill 55, which would have had the state allocate money from the general fund to pay the nearly $2.5 million dollars remaining on the School City of East Chicago's state disaster loan.

In 2016, Carrie Gosh Elementary School in the East Chicago school district was found to have dangerous levels of lead and arsenic in its water supply, causing the school building to be shut down and its students and staff to be relocated to a previously abandoned middle school. The School City of East Chicago received nearly $3 million in a state disaster relief loan to make emergency renovations to the middle school building.

To date, the School City of East Chicago has repaid $393,350 of the loan. They still owe $2,411,650.

“We can't put a price tag on safety,” Harris said.

“The East Chicago School system recognized a danger to their students and took swift action to protect them. They did the right thing and now they are paying for it. On top of the usual expenses of running a school, they are shouldering the costs of renovations, additional bus routes and millions of dollars of debt.

“We as lawmakers have an obligation to provide for and support our public schools. Indiana has millions of dollars just sitting, waiting for a rainy day, and then we're getting new funds from the fed as well. What better use for those funds than to relieve this heavy burden from an elementary school so that they can continue to provide the best for their students?”

House Republicans attempted to rule Harris's amendment as non-germane. To avoid contention, Harris withdrew the amendment from consideration.

“I would love for this amendment to have gone through, but really my goal was to get the message out there,” Harris added. “This is an important issue that people need to know about. We're still working on other options to pay back the debt.”

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