Published Essays from the Jefferson Educational Society

The Jefferson Educational Society has a variety of published essays that educate the community about public policies and issues in the Erie area. Learn more by downloading or viewing the essays below.

Facing Racial Disparities: Is Erie the Worst City in America for

This essay, written by Dr. Margaret Smith and Dr. Susan McDevitt of Edinboro University, provides some insight into several topics that examine the 24/7 Wall St. report that declared Erie to be “the worst city in American for African-Americans” in 2017. The essay examines the dynamics of institutional racism and its role in the plight of African-Americans. Topics discussed in the essay include the 24/7 Wall St. methods and factorsincluded in the Worst Cities for Black Americans report on Erie. Likewise, an analysis of important factors by ZIP code is presented. Finally, recommendations to remedy some of the persistent problems suffered by Erie and other such cities are offered.


The Lurking Threat: Harmful Algae Blooms Pose Local, Global Hazard

This essay is the result of research, writing, and analysis by its author, Judith Lynch, Ph.D., the Jefferson’s Decadian Scholar, as well as the guidance and support of several others, including the Jefferson Essays Editorial Board. This latest essay, the Jefferson’s seventh, explores a critical issue facing the Erie region: How to properly define the threat posed by Harmful Algae Blooms and other threats to Lake Erie’s water quality. It looks at causes and possible solutions while trying to accurately depict the real threats to our environment and economy.


Time to Act: The Case for Heritage Tourism and Rebuilding Erie’s Three Historic Forts

In the newly published Jefferson Essay, author Michael Fuhrman argues that public history and a community’s story is a powerful tool for urban revitalization at the grassroots and that capitalizing on this core asset must be a primary part of the recovery strategy. 

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Erie's Mayoral Race: Analyzing Voter Turnout and Primary Election Victories with a Look Ahead to November 7's General Election

By: Patrick Cuneo

As Erie Democratic mayoral nominee Joe Schember and Republican nominee John Persinger gear up their campaigns for a Nov. 7 election showdown, an important question lingers. What happened in the primary voting on May 16 that brought us here? Further, how many people voted in the primaries in the effort to succeed three-term Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott? Who were they? How did the turnout compare to past primaries? How does that help inform what might happen in November or, at minimum, underscore the candidates’ advantages and disadvantages heading toward the general election?

It should first be pointed out that the focus of this essay is limited principally to the voting results, voter turnout, and how they compare to the voting patterns over the last 30 years in particular. The turnout and voter breakdown of the May 2017 primaries tell a story about winners and contenders for the Democratic and Republican nominations. They also reveal some detail about the voters, including who showed up at the polls, by age and other demographics, and who didn’t. They also show that the once reliable Erie ethnic voting patterns seem to be eroding. What they don’t reveal, however, are the many reasons why Schember and Persinger emerged from a group of nine to compete head-to-head to succeed Mayor Sinnott, such as the ideas, people and money that helped them achieve the nominations.

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Erie's Public Schools: History, Challenges, Future

By: R. James Wertz, Ph.D.

"Erie’s public schools are in crisis. Inequitable funding by the Commonwealth and high rates of poverty and English language learners, as well as an abundance of students with learning disabilities, are just a few of the problems facing the district," writes Dr. R. James Wertz in the introduction for "Erie's Public Schools: History, Challenges, Future."

The essay reviews the history of Erie's Public Schools, analyzes its present circumstances, and looks forward to the future of how the School District is working to address its challenges through measures such as the community schools initiative.

"A community school strategy leverages community partnerships and adopts a community-centered curriculum that connects students to their schools as well as their neighborhoods. It’s a strategy that’s as much about creating social returns on investment as it is about accomplishing the mission of public education," Wertz writes. "By offering social services and adaptive curriculum, public schools nationwide hope to repatriate students lost to the charter school movement so that their identity, their affinity, and their future success reside in the neighborhoods where they lived, played, and learned as children. The community school strategy is, in many ways, a return to the community-centered education that shaped the district in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Further, it is my hope to illustrate a legacy of the Erie School District that includes creating programs, developing curriculum, and allocating resources that benefit the community, even when it burdens the district’s financial resources."

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The Case for Connecting Presque Isle to Erie's East Side -- A Historic Opportunity

Based on the findings from the inaugural Erie County Civic Leadership Academy Class and detailed research of Erie's past coupled with an examination of nationwide models, “The Case for Connecting Presque Isle to Erie’s East Side – A Historic Opportunity” explores past attempts to connect Presque Isle to Erie's east side and details the prospect of an underwater tunnel creating a second access point to the state park.

The essay's author, Michael Fuhrman, details Erie's historic attempts to make such a connection – dating back to 1913 – and explores new findings to discuss safety concerns of having only one entrance to the peninsula, as well as potential economic development that could be produced by connecting Erie's asset to its downtown.

The essay also features: An evaluation of bridges versus tunnels for such a connection;projected routes and construction details; successful models nationwide;environmental impacts of such a connection; public safety concerns; the creation of a waterfront district; Erie’s east side versus west side division; and, Erie’s establishment as “Pennsylvania’s Riviera.”

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Erie's Advanced Industries

The Jefferson Educational Society's second Jefferson Essay is dedicated to the examination of Erie’s Advanced Industries, which are arguably the key to Erie, Pa.’s future economic growth. The result of the burgeoning collaboration between the Brookings Institution and The Jefferson Educational Society, this thirty-six-page essay utilizes primary data curated and published by Brookings in February 2015.

In short, advanced industries invest deeply in research and development while nurturing and procuring skilled labor forces. Of the fifty advanced industries represented nationally, twenty-seven are present in Erie. Further, while advanced industries may only account for 9 percent of the American workforce, they represent a significant percentage (17) of the nation’s GDP. Erie is no exception, as its advanced industries can largely be credited for its rise from the economic mire of the Great Recession.


Is Erie A Safe City? Perception, Reality, Recommendations

A recurring theme: "gun violence erupts on the streets of Erie" is a cry repeatedly heard in the city. The purpose of this essay is to establish relevant facts, analyze the recent patterns of violent crime, suggest possible causes, and outline potential solutions.

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