At today's public hearing PURE Reform launched Transparency Watch. Due to a technical problem with the PURE website this testimony is posted below rather than on the announcements page.
Today PURE Reform launches Transparency Watch, a new feature we will use to identify important pieces of information about the Pittsburgh public schools which to our knowledge have not yet been provided to the public. We hope the administration and the Board will view this as a tool for ensuring that relevant information reaches the public.
Here are this month’s topics:
Grade 6 – 12 Format- We have not yet seen evidence supporting the benefits of this format.
CEP- As of a month ago we were told that no evaluation was available on the performance of this very expensive school ($5M per year). Also, updated enrollment information does not seem to be posted on the PPS website. NOTE: We learned after the hearing that information on an evaluation should now be available on the PPS website.
University Prep- Details of the arrangement between PPS and the University of Pittsburgh do not seem to have been provided yet.
Stimulus package money- It does not appear that information has been released as to what the district is doing to obtain school construction funds and what is being done to make projects shovel ready. There were also promises made last summer to seek funding opportunities for the Schenley building and so information on this issue should be provided.
Cost of renovating Schenley- Information should be provided on whether the $40M plan devised by the Schenley Building Task Force is acceptable and whether this is the figure that should be used when considering the cost to make Schenley available.
Asbestos plaster schools - Clear information is needed on when schools will be considered unsafe due to asbestos plaster issues. For example, over the past three months alone at Vann elementary there was an emergency cleanup of fallen ceiling plaster from the auditorium (copy of invoice attached) as well as removal of loose asbestos plaster in the library and a classroom. Over 200 Pittsburgh residents (additional signatures submitted today) have requested but not received a comparison of the condition of the plaster at schools such as Vann to the plaster at the Schenley building.
Incentive programs -Information should be provided on which schools have incentive programs such as rewards for attendance at extra standardized test preparation, the amount being spent on these programs, and the evidence the district considered both for and against this type of program.
Magnet lottery procedures- Information should be provided as to who is developing these procedures, what type of parent and teacher input has been obtained, and what are the specific goals that require a lottery different from one chance per applicant?
Board committee meeting minutes- These should be posted on the PPS website.
We as taxpayers pay over $500 million a year to fund the Pittsburgh public school district and so it would be difficult to imagine that we should not have a right to this type of information, preferably in advance of the time relevant decisions are made.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION omitted due to time constraints: A step in the right direction is the fact that meetings of the recently established facilities committee are open for observation by the public.