Tuesday, November 23, 2010

PPS Budget

From the Tribune:


Per the article, the capital budget includes $427 for new projects.


Dave Atkinson said...

Is anyone concerned about the projections for FY 2012? I notice that it is not in compliance with Fund Balance Policy – running a deficit of approximately $67 million. Furthermore, I continue to read about how PPS is not raising taxes, but can anyone explain to me why it costs twice the national average to educate a student in Pittsburgh? In Pittsburgh it’s ~ $20,000/pupil and nationally it’s ~$10,000/pupil. Pittsburgh is also about a third more expensive to educate students in Pittsburgh than the state average. I’m sure there are some reasons for a higher than average cost (such as aging infrastructure), but the cost of living in Pittsburgh is below the national average. Pittsburgh usually ranks high as an affordable city – so why can’t PPS educate students at the same cost per pupil as the national average?

I was reading the Mayor’s Commission for Public Education from 2003 which noted the high cost of educating students, the low utilization of facilities, high teacher salaries and a generally sound fiscal condition. The commission recommended consolidating schools, lowering the fund balance and lower tax rates by 2 mills. I know that many schools have been consolidated, and the fund balance has decreased. However, have property taxes been reduced since 2003? Is the overall fiscal condition of PPS still sound despite its high debt?

Wouldn’t it make sense for the School Board to implement a policy requiring the Superintendent to develop a four year plan to lower the cost to the national average and then use those savings to pay down debt and lower taxes? In such an affordable city, certainly we can find the savings to pay off debt and lower taxes.

Questioner said...

It is good to hear these concerns being raised!

The view of the administration seems to be that as long as the level of debt stays steady and taxes are not raised we're good- regardless of the fact that far fewer students are being educated.

Large capital projects continue to be launched without significant public discussion of the alternatives. For example, although not mentioned in the Tribune article, prior board meetings referred to a $1M tab for architectural services at Langley. With enrollment down significantly at Carrick and Oliver, could some type of consolidation take place? Also the cost of consultants appears to be quite high.

Anonymous said...

First, the less than average cost of living in Pittsburgh is almost solely due to the cost of housing. That doesn't really affect the cost of educating students here at all, though. Other costs -- transportation, food, maintenance, etc. are, I believe, much more in line with national averages.

Second, at least in the past, Pittsburgh was known for its special education. There were families who moved in from good suburban districts so that a special needs child could attend PPS. Some of these parents actually paid private school tuition(s) for other children, to get the services provided in the district. I don't think that's true anymore -- but it is true that as more city residents choose charters or private schools, the %age of special education students in the PPS is going to increase.
Obviously, the more special education, the higher the costs (specialized/additional teachers, smaller class sizes or pull-out programs, entire programs, etc.)

Also, Pittsburgh's poverty level is that of an urban district, not of national standards. Fairer comparisons would be to similarly sized urban districts. Kids in many of our schools have no supplies -- they have to be provided for in the school's budget or the kids won't have pencils or notebooks, etc.

ALL THAT SAID, it is odd that over the last 5 years with constantly declining enrollment, closed buildings, and loss of many programs (home economics and shop at the middle school level -- do any/many schools still have this?) costs haven't gone down. It has not been a time of inflation, either, other than in gas prices.

I would attribute this to administrative costs -- new programs/curricula/software licenses don't come cheaply, consultants either, positions at the BOE don't seem to be diminishing in number.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there is any correlation between rising costs of educating students and sinking levels of achievement for students.

It appears that the greater the numbers of highly-paid administrators, the fewer the numbers of highly-achieving students.

Mark Rauterkus said...


The Pennsylvania Department of Education has announced (PA Bulletin: Vol. 40, No. 45, November 6) that applications for career and technical equipment grant funds for 2010-2011 are being accepted. Funding is available on a competitive basis to career and technical education centers/AVTS (area vocational technical schools) and school districts that offer approved programs. The maximum amount per project is $50,000 per grant award. Applications are due December 3, 2010. For more information or to apply via PDE’s E-Grant system, visit http://www.pde.state.pa.us.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me what the figure is for an amount spent annually on consultants and research? This district is a house of cards and such information would be very interesting.

Anonymous said...

too few have paid much attention to how school districts spend their money. it was commendable that at the board meeting this week Ms. Hazuda and Ms. Shealey initiated the conversation and called for the holding on any expenditures for any evaluation of the Arlington property (I think I have the location correct).

Anonymous said...

We pay more per pupil than other district in the area. The money does not reach the kids, that is the bottom line. In a lot of schools teachers are short on supplies and computers for student use. Money is dumped in to certain area's to look good for the media. Most of the money during the rosevelt era as gone to more management at 341 S. Belfield. The corparate district, what a Joke? I hate to say things are not going to change, they are going to stay on the same path.

I had to buy certain classroom supplies including pencils and three ring binders, and the principals and their pela's went to New Orleans for a conference. What a Kick in the pants for teachers. Last year they went to Vegas, what places of higher education. If you drink the kool aide in this district you can go far. Half of the teachers I have seen become coaches were horrible and now they observe me. This district is going to hell in a handbasket thanks to MR. I will not be attending his Roast. What a Tool?

Anonymous said...

The unmitigated gall of Ghubril and the Promise to hold such a send off is one thing, but to charge $75 a head for snacks and to hear these politicians talk is simply nauseating.
As a teacher, I take getting an invitation to this event as an insult. I take the fact that PFT brass will be there as a slight.
Let's tell it like it is, shall we? Roosevelt, Ghubril, Tarka---all politicians who are happily far away from the urban classroom.
What charlatans.

Mark Rauterkus said...

It is a roast. It is a fund raiser. It is an excuse to extract some money from those that have it and want to give it up -- with a little push and pulling. Those that pay $75 get to mingle with others that pay $75 -- feeling good -- and perhaps a few of them dig deeper and put a few zeros behind the next check, even that very night. They'll drink Kool-Aide n at. :)

I got the invite in the mail and knew that I would be too busy to attend -- and too light in the purse as well. It made me raise an eye. Giggle. But perhaps I am far less able to be insulted than some.

I still think it would be a great final act to announce that PPS kids with Pgh Promise scholarships can attend Antioch and save $10,000.

I hope they have fun. I hope they all dig deep and choose to spend some of their fortunes for college scholarships on kids from Pittsburgh.

The value of a great K-12 education with inspiring, empowered teachers: Priceless.

Questioner said...


Anonymous said...

Mark, you are joking, right? I mean, you can't be serious. You couldn't feel insulted, no, but walk a mile in the shoes of teachers who view Roosevelt and Ghubril as nothing more than charlatans. I don't care what their intentions seem to be, that road is paved to, well, you get the idea...

Anonymous said...

Mark Roosevelt is gone. Time to change our socks.