The Westinghouse Alumni Association and Fiscal Friends of PPS' 40 point, $100 million Action Plan to Save Our School District
For no less than five years the Board, Superintendent, PFT, administration and community of the School District of Pittsburgh have received repeated and frankly monthly warnings that drastic measures would be needed to balance the budget as the impact of health care inflation, PSERS contributions, two recessions in the last decade, poor State and Federal funding outlooks ran, like two trains on a track, into very costly elements of a "reform" agenda such as pay for performance, principals emerging leadership academies, teacher academies, additional boutique high schools despite rapidly declining enrollment.
The Superintendent continued to downplay the risks, repeatedly saying that the State would never let us fall and that the Federal Government would step in to fund our initiatives. In the meantime, our annual academic gains have not outpaced our neighbors or the State as a whole. Only Mark Brentley paid attention.
1. It is time to go Back to Basics and institute Reality-Based Budgeting:
No tax increase. None. No need to talk about it when our cost per pupil is over $20,000.
2. Cancel our contracts with the Broad and Gates Foundations. Their influence, in creating ultimately unsustainable functions, bonuses and plans have been nothing but a cancer on this district.
3. Request that Mr. Roosevelt waive the remaining obligation to buy his life insurance coverage. The district - which for no less than five years has always projected that our budget gap could be as large as $100 million by 2013 unless it stopped trying every single new and great idea coming out of Seattle - needs a life line. Let your guilt guide you Mark. Estimated savings $200,000.
4. Eliminate the Board Office secretary. Board members are elected volunteers. Other urban PA school districts simply do not have this luxury. While the individual employee is solid, her functions should be consolidated with the Superintendent's office. Just to be clear, keep this good employee, but drop out the one or two lowest performing secretaries at the administration building. Estimated savings: $100,000.
5. Eliminate the elected internal auditor, the Office of the School Controller. When the City Controller is elected now, he or she is automatically the School Controller. This will require an act of the State legislature. As the 2005 Performance Study of the district noted, similarly sized school districts were performing the essential functions of this office with half or less than half the staff of Pittsburgh. A much smaller crew of maybe three, with the ability to directly report to the elected Board could do the essentials without the full cost. Estimated Savings $500,000.
6. Consolidate the collection of current real estate taxes with Allegheny County, appointing the Treasurer of the County the collector for the school district. This may require an act of the State legislature unless the City takes like-kind action. The district under prior leadership already took action to outsource the collection of delinquent real estate taxes (joining the County with Jordan tax services) and to outsource the collection of earned income taxes (Jordan tax services through Act 32). Estimated savings $1,000,000.
7. Eliminate all external communications consultants. Appoint a very streamlined function to report directly to the Superintendent of Schools. As a much larger district, Pittsburgh used to be capable of having honest conversation with its constituents when it was just Pat Crawford, Lynne Turnquist and a secretary. It's time to return to that model. This model includes blowing up the Office of the Chief of Staff. The office currently includes roughly ten unnecessary positions, such as a deputy chief of staff, a special events specialist, a manager of media relations, a manager of community relations, a call center manager, etc. We can no longer afford to behave as though we have 100,000 or more students. Estimated savings $1,000,000.
8. Move the Minority Business Enterprise functions and staff in with the Purchasing Department. RFP all external consultants over $10,000 using a short form quotation system. Embed participation language and goes into all quotes, bids and RFPs at the point of control. Estimated savings $200,000. The estimated savings is not from eliminating the positions, it is from a lower cost of business on consultant contracts.
9 Eliminate the Research office (approximately 8 staff), except for two staff who simply would continue to distribute and manage required and desired testing documents. Start using the very same already delivered and packaged State reports that every school district in PA that is making AYP uses. Estimated savings $500,000.
10. Auction all closed school buildings to the highest bidder. The average cost of just cutting the grass, plowing the snow and keeping a gas, electric and water connection to each closed school building has to be in the $50,000 range. Stop pretending that every closed building is a South Vo Tech, located in a prime market (South was sold for $1 million because of its prime location on Carson Street). Even if you dump every property for a $0.01 we will save on the soft cost of keeping them. Estimated savings $1,000,000.
11. Streamline academic administration into just four departments: Elementary Schools, Secondary Schools, Pupil Services and Curriculum/Professional Development. Eliminate every manager - every non-secretary - with less than 6 to 7 direct reports. Estimated savings $2,000,000. This includes the elimination of the office of strategic planning with Derrick Lopez.
12. Merge the MT. Oliver Intermediate Unit with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. The benefit will be tapping into a network of educational leaders not beholden to national foundations. Estimated savings $200,000.
13. Merge Murray, Arlington 1 and Arlington 2 into two buildings. Estimated savings $700,000.
14. Keep Obama at Reizenstein, avoid the cost of moving to Peabody, move special education administration out of Overbrook and into Reizenstein. Another alternative is move Obama to Westinghouse, which could free Reizenstein to be the consolidated administration building or to even sell Reizenstein (with the funds being used to pay down debt in accordance with the tax code). Estimated savings $700,000, plus whatever capital projects can be avoided as a result, which could stem into the millions.
15. Consider closing Oliver and merge with Perry or Langley if safety issues are addressed unlike what it happening with the east end merger plan that includes Westinghouse and the Peabody and black students from East Hills made to leave Allderdice. Oliver is too small (student population) to offer the kids a meaningful education. Langley is air conditioned. Estimated savings $700,000.
16. Eliminate all non-Head Start pre-k (keeping only those who meet the economic guidelines set forth by the state and federal government) and use any Accountability Block Grant funds that might be restored in the Governor's budget for kindergarten. Families that can afford to pay their way into pre-k who are not eligible for the remaining federal and state programs would be welcomed with open arms. Estimated savings $2,000,000.
17. Use Open Office or Google as the district wide platform for word processing, spreadsheets, etc. Estimated savings $600,000.
Cancel this year's Summer Dreamer's Academy except for free/reduced lunch students and below basic students. All others to pay tuition. Use the savings to make the 2011-12 purchases of reading and math textbooks and supplemental materials and/or look backwards at any and all expenses during the grant period that can be attributed to this funding source without supplanting. Estimated savings $2,000,000.
18. Cut the human resources department in half. We will be laying off, not hiring. As a sign of the current dysfunction at Bellefield, PPS is actually trying to hire another HR employee right now. Estimated savings $1,000,000.
19 Invite all unions back to the bargaining table to offer creative methods to save money, which could include wage or benefit concessions. Estimated savings $4,000,000.
20. Invite each bordering school district to merge with the Pittsburgh Public Schools (examples include Sto Rox, Wilkinsburg, etc.). If just two take the offer, the estimated savings is $1,000,000.
21. Eliminate the contracted solicitor services and either hire him or hire two staff attorneys solicitors to do all but the most specialized work. Historically the district had only two staff solicitors and a lower cost of legal services. The district uses real estate counsel, workers compensation counsel, labor counsel, bargaining counsel, special education counsel, etc. Estimated savings $500,000.
Realign school times and more fully populate existing yellow bus routes, pilot expanded use of port authority. Estimated savings $1,000,000.
22. Eliminate the centralized gifted center and go to decentralized elementary gifted education/differentiated instruction with supports. Estimated savings $2,000,000.
23 Cancel the balance of the Two Bell LLC contract, who is now doing financial duties. He's getting $50,000 a month. We had a very talented CFO that repeatedly warned us of what was going to happen and offered solutions like those incorporated in this plan. Where is he? Bring him back now before we go bankrupt. Estimated savings $100,000.
24. Cancel the external contract for lobbying and just leverage the joint power of the Pennsylvania School Board Association. This is exactly how almost every other school district in the state engages in lobbying efforts. Estimated savings $100,000.
25. Eliminate all reading/math coaches. Use qualified tutors, for instance, from the PACT Program at Duquesne University to work in small groups with Title I students. Duquesne has provided free service to our students for years, now its time to engage them and rely on their expertise to expand their services. Estimated savings $5,000,000.
26. Increase retiree contributions for health care benefits for future PFT and administrative retirees. The does requires renegotiation but to save or schools its worth it. Estimated savings $1,000,000 for each cohort of retirees (amount of savings would grow each year).
27 Eliminate CAS and PSP classes for gifted secondary education. These classes are duplicative and are not a state mandate. Other school districts right here in Allegheny County offer secondary enhancement through AP and IB only. Use AP and IB offerings, plus some differentiated instruction, to meet the needs of secondary gifted students. Estimated savings $5,000,000.
28 Cancel the employment contracts of all remaining Broad residents (approximately 5). This includes, for instance, the athletic reform manager, whose duties from day one should always have just been part of the responsibilities of the current Athletic Director. Estimated savings $500,000.
29. Raise the remaining student to teacher ratio from 14:1 to 20:1, keeping smaller class sizes in K, 1 and 2, plus special education and alternative education. Use precious Title I dollars to provide direct services to those students in need. Estimated savings $50,000,000. This may require further school consolidation.
Eliminate the PELA program to train new principals and the Academies to train new teachers. We should partner with our local universities to provide support and quality administrative and teaching candidates. There will be lots of qualified, displaced individuals across the State that we could hire to fill vacancies in specialty areas, if need be. Otherwise, we will be in furlough mode any way. Estimated savings $3,000,000.
30 Eliminate duplication of alternative education. Keep the Student Achievement Center and get rid of CEP. Estimated savings $2,000,000.
Consider a four day school week (increase hours per day). For transportation and facilities alone, the estimated savings is $5,000,000.
31. Use the balance of the central duplication services fund to pay a portion of this year's copying bill. This fund was created to capture the internal cost of color printing and it was meant to be used to pay for the cost of the central printing equipment and staff. The balance at year end should have been drawn down to pay for part of this year's bill. Estimated savings $100,000.
32. Adopt a 10 year cycle for curriculum renewal. First we had Kaplan, then we had the Assistant Superintendent continuing to tinker with curriculum and rewrite what had just been done. Do it once, do it right, do minor maintenance, but leave it alone for 10 years. Estimated savings $1,000,000.
33. Eliminate the use of recurring and duplicative educational services contracts to include consultants such as the Institute for Learning, Paula Bevin and others. Estimated savings $1,000,000. If our leaders and Assistant Superintendents are incapable of coaching other administrators, its time to find new Assistant Superintendents.
34. Consolidate Pittsburgh's career and technical education efforts with those of the surrounding districts. If our classes are not large enough, let's plan with the surrounding centers to share offerings that are fully enrolled. Estimated savings $1,000,000.
35. Because this plan shaves the district's cost per pupil dramatically, it will also reduce our charter school tuition rate. The rate Pittsburgh pays charter schools is simply a function of Pittsburgh's cost per pupil. As we generate savings, the cost per pupil will go down, thereby reducing the charter school tuition rate. Estimated savings $8,000,000.
The projected annual savings listed here exceeds $100 million. That is on purpose. The incremental savings that exceeds $100 million will be annually appropriated into an Innovation Pool from which individual teachers, administrators, joint labor management committees, etc. will competitively apply for mini-grants or one time costs to keep the District growing intellectually or to even fund certain costs that might be incurred in order to achieve greater efficiencies or economies of scale (such as a follow up to the very comprehensive 2005 study of all administrative functions that the Commonwealth's Legislative Budget and Finance