Tuesday, April 5, 2011

PPS district financial condition

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"PPS is setting the stage to put forth a referendum to raise taxes in November.

City residents are already saddled with a dysfunctional board of 'puppets' and a Madoff-like central office. It would be suicidal to pass this referendum when the current board and PPS central staff have a poor track record. Their actions speak louder than their words.

Dr. Lane's proposal of 10% cut in central office is not sufficient. Top management has significantly grown since Roosevelt while school staff has been cut drastically.

Dr. Lane needs to show that she is capable of reeling in the spending, directing the funds where it impacts the students the most, and is willing to rethink the direction of the District. If she is not willing to drop expensive iniatives and programs that do not work or have a direct impact on the students, then the District does not deserve our vote of confidence in passing the referendum.

Has Dr. Lane walked the neighbors recently? Has she not noticed all of the abandoned homes and houses that have been on the market for years?

If the City needs money, then repeal UPMC tax exemption status. They are the major land owners and the biggest employer in the City.

If the City needs money, then the District needs to appeal to the middle class families fleeing in droves with well thought out, proven initatives."


Questioner said...

On snother post Anonymous wrote:

"To set the stage for the referendum, Dr. Lane attributes the negative balance estimated for 2012 to 'PSERS' rating and to anticipated stimulus money that never materialized. If that is not a ponzi scheme, then I don't know what is!??!

She also claims that the Board has known about the structural deficit for over 12 years in attempt to shift the blame. If the board has known about this problem for 12+ years, then Roosevelt had to know also. Knowing that the money was not there, Roosevelt continued to spend the District into debt. He pushed through iniatives that are not sustainable nor proven to work.

Dr. Lane and the current board are not without blame here. Registered voters let the current and past administrations and directors here your voice. Vote the board of directors out; with the exception of Mr. Brentley, he is the only director who is asking the tough questions without the support of the others.

A 'NO' vote for the referendum is a vote of 'NO CONFIDENCE' with the established administration."

Questioner said...

On another post parent1 wrote:

"Perhaps more instructional time should have been devoted to fiscal management in the Broad Academy program. Some may also remember Dr. Thompson spending like the money supply never dwindles and complaining that we do not have a nice sports stadium like other districts. So the twelve years sounds about right.

What happens if the voters say no to raising taxes? And, yes it seems logical that the next move will be floating that idea. We got closer to it everytime 9 people sat around a table congratulating all as each year without a tax increase was celebrated."

Questioner said...

Anon, can you explain more about the negative balance- is this an excess of projected costs over projected revenue for the 2012 calendar year? And what is the effect of a PSERS rating- does this rating result in the district paying a higher rate of interest on its already outstanding debt obligations? And/or on new debt?

What exactly is a structural deficit? And when/where did Dr. Lane state that the board has known about the deficit for 12 years? The district seemed awash in money just a short time ago!

Questioner said...

From the PG:

"With huge deficit looming Pittsburgh Public Schools look to cut back"


According to the acting finance officer, "We don't have money to pay salaries in September [2012] based on our current situation. By September 2012, we can't pay salaries, we can't turn the lights on, we can't pay the water bills or electric bills. We can't pay the bus companies or buy books for students. We can't pay the bills."

Anonymous said...

Start the cuts at the top then down.

Get rid of all the newly created administration during the Roosevelt years. Compare & Contrast before MR and after MR. Get Rid of the Literacy Coaches and Math Coaches, most were failed teachers.

Get rid of the teachers academy & Turning Westinghouse in to a single gender academy, at least put these initatives on hold.

They will cut teachers & programs, and hurt the kids. Get rid of the Broad & Gate people first.

Anonymous said...

Going back at least three years, almost to the day, Roosevelt, Lane and the Board were warned in pretty good detail with a 10 year forecast that multiple years of significant reductions would be needed to right this ship.


He didn't listen; she didn't; they didn't listen.

Mark Rauterkus said...

When Dr. Thompson was here, he had a very large, so it seemed, reserve fund. It sounded to other politicians to be gross -- and they managed to steal it away from the PPS.

One way was with crossing guards to be paid by PPS, not the City of Pittsburgh. A few other tens of millions were taken by the OVERLORDS in those years too.

The relationships between PPS and City of Pittsburgh has been unproductive for the most part. Chilled perhaps. On one hand, that's good -- as when the city has come around in the past decade it was generally to seek a tax break (TIF). And, frankly, the City folks on Bellfield (PPS Board of Ed) was meant to be bad news for schools and students and taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Mark, was the money the city took 33 milion or 43 million?

Anonymous said...

Questions for consideration in this time of PPS general decline:

Why is it that as PPS enrollment is declining and the enrollment of Charters, Private, and Parochial Schools is increasing? Why are such schools interested in purchasing PPS vacated/closed schools if substantial numbers of school age children are fleeing PPS in search of alternatives within the city? Is there any correlation between choices to leave PPS and choices to create new non-PPS schools?

Is it possible that if PPS improves education in ways that increases academic achievement and prepares students for a future that they could become competitive with the aforementioned schools?

Why is it that non-PPS educators can create schools that attract parents and children, when PPS educators are chasing them away with the one-size-fits all curricula that is neither aligned with PA Standards nor relevant to the interests of our city’s children?

Is it possible that by listening to students, parents, and community and acting on the insights provided, PPS could hold on to its students, schools, and families?

Is the demise of the PPS a foregone conclusion, or can communities coalesce to create high-performing schools for all of its children?

Questioner said...

The city doesn't seem to have money to spare either- notice for example the potholes and the big bills at auto inspection time. Infrastructure again. There's a reason that few cities can offer summer camp and payment of college tuition.

Anonymous said...

It is not a revenue problem, it is an expenditure crisis. Even with the Corbett plan Pittsburgh's revenues are well above the state average per pupil and well above the Allegheny County average.

Even with a 10% reduction on the entire PPS budget - something Lane has not proposed yet - Pittsburgh's cost per pupil would still be among the very highest in the State.

Anonymous said...

The level of apathy is depressing. When people think Mark Roosevelt even sorta did a great job, it becomes obvious nobody cares or pays attention.

Anonymous said...

i see a protocol here the deeper PPS deficit gets the more you see
charter school comes in play.don't
exspect to get help from govenor Corbett this is a wide open opportunity for him to push choice voucher in Pgh. one of the larger school dist. in Western Pa. usally the case when school dist. have financial problems the state comes in and take over like the Duquesnse Dist. this case watch out school voucher meaning the PPS dist. might be in deep trouble, what amaze me you knew for 12 years that you were spending
money you don't have. enclosing where was the accountability,resposibility someone or somebody has to answer for that way it looks there will be
no more PPS keep going down this path of FINANCIAL DESTRUCTION!!!

Anonymous said...

I don't see how Dr. Lane can talk about a 12 year structural deficit. The fund balance reported at the end of 2010 on Monday's PowerPoint was $70 million, or pretty much what it has been for each of the last three years, meaning there was no "gap".

Repeating a lie does not make it true.

For a decade PPS' fund balance or savings account has been at and sometimes above $70 million.

Maybe what she should be talking about is the lack of sustainability the last of Roosevelt's reforms put into the mix:

1. The extra administration such as an office of teacher effectiveness
2. The admin bonus structure far greater than the sum of prior raises
3. The teachers contract which I seem to recall someone pointing out layers almost $20 million onto base cost once the TIG grant runs out
4. A communications and marketing effort that would make Oprah jealous
5. Expansion of school offerings in the face of declining enrollment
6. Lack of courage to close small, struggling high schools

PPS suffering from Yellow Springs Fever but the cost base so high it can be fixed with some guts and no tax increase.

Questioner said...

But her instructions are to "stay the course."

Anonymous said...

Just the facts: Two new non-PPS schools will open in the city.

One is a new Propel on the Northside http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/education/s_730857.html
and the second one at the old Vann School in the Hill District purchased by the Catholic Diocese last month for $350,000 (combining St. Benedict the Moor and St. Agnes)..

PPS closed Vann and is closing Manchester. Why is PPS losing so many students? Why are people choosing alternatives?

Anonymous said...

Is this the course PPS is staying?

Questioner said...

Re: Apathy- unfortunately, most people will only begin to pay attention when their tax bill goes up. Roosevelt was smart about this and made a point of emphasizing each year that there would be no tax increase, so he was able to do pretty much whatever he wanted.

Anonymous said...

Could it be more than "apathy"? Add a little 'displeasure' at the quality of education being offered in PPS? Is anyone at PPS Central Office capable or qualified to create educational options with substance and a well-developed plan for attracting, holding and educating students?

If so, who? They need to be called and pressed into action! Now!

bystander said...

All eyes should be on the school, Faison I think, reconfigured and where more authority will reside with the staff in the building to govern and develope measures to meet improvement goals.

Could this be the next version of reform and an answer to the gains seen in charters? Kind of a PPS charter?

Anonymous said...

Bystander --

I agree. But I've heard conflicting reports about whether the bigger changes start in the fall or after a year of planning at the school with the new staff. Do you know?

Have heard of a couple people who will be there and if they are an indication of the quality of the teachers, they've got a fighting chance.

But of course, they still need a GOOD principal who knows both how to lead, how to get out of the way, and how to shield the teachers from the district's whims!

Anonymous said...

AGREED 11:08! More "authority" and autonomy within any given school whose educators are willing to step up to the challenge of creating a 'charter" of their own, one to which the staff is committed because they 'own' it.

The potential for great success lies within such a model. Why not let any school who has not made AYP or not come close to meeting the state's minimum target/standard be given the opportunity to design a plan for their school.

Results could hardly be worse than those that exist not, so what does Central Administration have to lose?

Anonymous said...

While I agree that the last Superintendent and the present Superintendent did not and is not making the seemingly appropriate (although hard) decisions, I think the point that everyone is missing is that when Roosevelt was the superintendent & Dr. Lane was Deputy Superintendent, the Board Members APPROVED his iniatives and now they and Dr. Lane (who was a party to Roosevelts ideas)are the very people blaming all of the Districts problems on Roosevelt. Was Mark Roosevelt that much of a svengali that he got the Board members and HIS chosen replacement (Dr. Lane)to blindly ride his bandwagon to fiscal destruction. We can't change the past, but, we should learn from it and DEMAND that the School Board members be held accountable for their past and current malfeasance

Anonymous said...

The missing something is that there does NOT appear to be any blame places on the MR administration and Board of Directors for what has happened to education in PPS, then or now.

(We'd welcome a little acknowledgement that there needs to be some "blame" for what continues in this PPS slide into oblivion.)

Rather, it is a "stay the course" mentality coming from the Superintendent and Board which defies all logic and accountability!

Questioner said...

But, the course was a very expensive one- probably too expensive to stay now even if the results had been better.

Anonymous said...

There approach at the Ivory tower has been to though crap against the wall and see what sticks. Plus the hiring of consultants constantly. Hiring all these Broadies. We as a district that will be laying off teachers but hiring new ones to go through The Teaching Academy.

The main problem my 20 years in the district is their is no disipline, I hate to tell people it is only gotten worse. The kids run the schools.

Anonymous said...

Not expensive enough, since the money came from external entities, Broad, Gates, Foundations, etc. The money was spent just to spend it, although on personal agendas, never on academic achievement or education for kids which should be the bottom line.

The bottom line got lost in all the money, prestigious positions, and national spotlight. Does the Board realize that? Brainwashing is difficult to wipe away; the vestiges remain. It will be a few years before fresh thinking can reverse these trends.

Anonymous said...

We will be the next Detroit. Sixty students per class and no extra curicular activities of any kind. Guess where there Superintendent came from. The Broad Academy!

Tarka Kept telling us if we did not accept the contact we would be the next Detroit, one many cities he mentioned during his fear speeches he gave before the last contract. Wow, Mark Roosevelt's Cabana Boy was right about something. I wish he would go to yellow springs also.

Questioner said...

Since everyone seems to agree that the Broad Foundation bears some responsibility, maybe we can ask it for a bailout. Remember, accountability is a major concept for Broad!

Questioner said...

And yes, MR was extraordinarily persuasive. The fact that he controlled such large amounts of money contributed to his persuasiveness.

Anonymous said...

"Remember, accountability is a major concept for Broad!"

Accountability counts only when it applies to someone else. Clearly Broad holds everyone else accountable for education, and itself only accountable for expansion of the Broad pre-eminence. And unfortunately, one does not depend on the other.

Victoria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Questioner said...

Remember when Derrick Lopez would say we just needed high expectations?

Without consequences high expectations don't amount to much. And, the existence of consequences tends to keep expectations realistic.

Anonymous said...

Picking up on the "high expectations/consequences" theme and an earlier mention by a poster of discipline, has everyone considered that with the increase in class size anticipated due to budget issues we will see the ability to discipline further diminish?

Disgusted with the lack of leadership said...

How are students supposed to achieve when they come to school with so many issues and there is no guidance and no one to make the appropriate referrals to help them? This is what will happen next year at Oliver High School. Oliver...a school with high poverty, low achievement, and high needs. The principal cut the school social worker from his budget. How could you NOT have a social worker at Oliver High School? Where is the logic behind this decision? This district is on a fast train to nowhere and is about to wreck!!!!

Anonymous said...

I urge everyone that has concerns about how the Superintendent is going to cut the budget to take a very close look at the 2011 budget that was submitted and approved. Look at how extremely top heavy the District has become and what the salaries of these people are. One example is the CTE office, it one Director at over $100K, three support persons at approx. $80K a year and one classroom teacher. That's 1 director and 3 support personnel for ONE teacher. Another example is PELA, one Director at $100k+ and SEVEN support personnel making $100K apiece.

At lower levels in the District we are all told to do more with less and when complaints are lodged the answer is a polite answer that is basically, "you could always find another job".

Once again I strongly urge all to closely examine the APPROVED 2011 budget.

Anonymous said...

"Nice things cost money."-Oskar Schindler.

How is it that so many of us feel that we are entitled to a stagnant tax rate, year in and year out? At what point does one begin to read, think and comprehend?

Obama did not cause the economic crisis that was handed to him. Linda Lane did not cause the crisis that was handed to her.

In the case of the latter, not one program that is used by kids should be cut. Not one teacher should be cut.

Dr.Lane, have the gumption to look at cuts, surely, but to raise taxes if need be.

Anonymous said...

Enrollment has dropped precipitously over the last decade.

I few most entitled to expect a competitive cost per pupil from the 2nd largest school district in PA.

This budget can be balanced and still leave PPS with the highest cost per pupil in Allegheny County and one of the top 20 in the state.

No one should even hint of raising taxes until the cost structure put into play with Roosevelt's summer dreaming, Gates match, TIF match, the admin bonuses, etc.

Do you really think it's acceptable to spend $5,000 plus more than our neighbors per pupil????

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:11, I think maybe Dr. Lane and Ms. Fischetti should take Pittsburgh's plight to Harrisburg. They need to show Corbett they dreamed big and worked hard for the big raises pushed through the night before the Governir released his budget.

Isn't there any shame left on Bellefield? With unemployment still at above average levels, they have they hutzpah to cry poor when the district has the single largest fund balance among schools in the Commonwealth?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Lane is so concerned about the deficit, but yet she gave lots of her friends raises and bonuses and the top tier iPads. Most of them don't even know how to send email or turn on their computer and now they are sporting ipads! Don't you think if you made more than 140K a year you could buy your own? Apparently not. The money that is spent on non-educational purposes is insane. Someone should go in and audit. Bet they would find lots of places to cut -- starting with most of the people at the top.

Anonymous said...

Why are people flocking to charter and private schools???? Because those schools can TOSS UNPRODUCTIVE and DIFFICULT students OUT!!! If your child is constantly harassed by students who do not want to be there and there is nothing the school district can do about it, wouldn't you prefer to go to a school where they are actually able to do something about it? Alternative schools are working because they can set guidelines that parents and students HAVE to adhere to. Period. Almost every charter school loses about 20% of their new students every year because the students refuse to follow the rules. Wouldn't it be nice it PPS had that ability? As dysfunctional as the administration of PPS is, and it is, the problem with the schools is that other than the magnet schools, they have no ability to get rid of students who have absolutely no desire to be there and attend simply to cause trouble. If Charter and Private schools were not allowed to toss out their trouble makers, you would see the same decline in performance as PPS experiences.

Questioner said...

The district solution a few years back for troubled students was CEP. The plan wasn't really logical, though, A) because CEP would not take special ed students and B) because parents had to consent to the placement.

Another approach- adequate social services at all schools- was proposed many times but rejected without explanation.

Disgruntled said...

If Charter and Private schools were not allowed to toss out their trouble makers, you would see the same decline in performance as PPS experiences.

This is true. In fact, most studies show that if you control for SES public schools are the equal or better of most charters (only 17% of charters do better than their comparable public schools while 34% do worse!) and often of private schools too.

I'd say that public schools need to figure out how to remove those kids who are interfering with other kids' learning AND how to reach them. Current choices of Clayton and the Options Center are only used for the more extreme cases and even then don't seem to have a whole lot of effect overall.

I don't know what the answer is, but the current no limits, no boundaries policies that seem to be the norm are not helping anyone. They're probably hurting the kids they are aimed at the most too -- real life has real consequences and these kids who've played their PELA principals over and over again are going to be totally unprepared for that (and uneducated, too).

Questioner said...

Clayton (CEP) will close soon if it has not already- the most recent info about the school was that it would be used for credit recovery, which many students are apparently doing by computer from other locations anyway.

At the time CEP was approved the board accepted the idea that it would resolve the problem of disruptive students in grades 6 through 12, without really questioning whether this expectation was realistic.

Just Passing Through said...

To Anon 9:39 AM

Your post regarding troublemaking students says it all. Well done.

Most people are unaware of the level of disruption, vulgarity, and often outright violence that occurs in our schools on a daily basis.

If the PPS will address this in a meaningful way, then we can yet offer a quality education to those that want it.

If the PPS will not address this, then nothing else at all matters. New computers, fancy new programs, all would be just a waste of time and money.

Questioner said...

And yet, someone noted yesterday that the social worker at one of the high schools was being cut out of the budget. Where are our priorities?

Anonymous said...

Clayton hasn't closed yet. Kids are still being sent there.

Anonymous said...

I just heard an analogy that I think is fitting for the district. It is called the Mushroom Method. Mushrooms grow in the dark, and as soon as they pop their head above ground, someone chops their head off. Likewise, so many intelligent district employees, and city residents have been working hard to make the district's policies work and once they realize that it is not working and try to solve the problems and/or speak up, especially for those within the district, they get their head chopped off. It is better for the administration to 'just keep the course,' and they want to do so at all costs. Especially for all the Broad folks who can walk away from Pittsburgh as easily as they walked into it, once they have taken everything they can from the district and have completely destroyed it.

Anonymous said...

Clayton is not the answer to solve all behavioral problems. As someone stated previously, a parent must consent to placement there. Many parents continuously deny their child is the problem and like to say the school is the problem. Of the students referred there, more students don't go to Clayton than do go to Clayton. Parent refusal is very common.

They don't take special education students and students already on Juvenile Probation.

Also, the students who return from Clayton are often still the students who end up dropping out.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering if all this financial "mess" is why the Chief Financial Officer, Chris Berdnik, resigned abruptly?? And, he filed suit and it quickly was settled. What did he know?

He left and Roosevelt left. Interesting... makes you wonder.

Questioner said...

At the time, word was that there was some sort of financial issue. Something about MR never wanting to hear bad news or be reminded of financial issues that needed to be resolved. Maybe Chris Berdnik was pressured to go along and then was blamed, but this type of information is very difficult to obtain. Non disclosure agreements silence everyone.

Anonymous said...

Wow, sounds familiar. MR must have liked George W. who also didn't want to hear or know about reality which is why this country is where it is today.

Anonymous said...

Yes, they do.