Friday, December 18, 2015

Largest surplus in the state for PPS

Anonymous wrote:

New Post Please:

Enough of the austerity budgets! We should have spent this money on students; smaller class sizes, paraprofessionals, social workers, nurses, librarians, etc. "


Anonymous said...

Another case of Bellefield crying wolf - we're going broke! I wonder what an independent across the board audit would uncover?

Anonymous said...

Yes five years ago 2016 was the "bpgeyman" as we were negotiating a contract-- hmm

Anonymous said...

Recently Rep. Jake Wheatley and Sala Udin have made commentary in the PG about wine and spirits reform and the re-development taking place in the lower Hill and their negative societal implications.

To date there has been no commentary by either of these men on the negative societal implications of a failing PPS' system

Is it that they do not care enough?

Anonymous said...

All the while being mindful in their surprising silence of :

" The intense and ongoing labors, fights for justice, presentations of volumes of related evidentiary data to authorities, meeting after meeting, email after email, report after report, have been underway for more than 25 years in PPS. It is all well documented, but clearly buried by the "establishment" who cannot, will not, and rejects clear, bold, modern day "solutions"! ( posted by one of our posters )

Anonymous said...

Do you think it might be that PPS Central Office just does not know enough to be effective?

How many of them have no qualifications of PA Certification to do the job they hold?

Pennsylvania considers the education of its children to be among the highest priorities of state government and has dedicated many resources toward that end. Educators prepare for their responsibilities in the schools of the Commonwealth through the completion of:
(1) A state-approved teacher education program that includes a student teaching (for instructional certificates) or field experience (for administrative certificates such as principal or vocational director and educational specialist certificates such as school counselor, school nurse, etc.).
(2) The Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA) Reading, Writing, Mathematics and the correct content assessments as indicated on the Testing Requirements webpage.
(3) Application materials documenting that all certification requirements have been met. In this section, you will find information on approved teacher preparation programs, the Interstate Agreement, the requirements for certification and the application process.

Teacher Preparation Programs in Pennsylvania - A person may complete a teacher preparation program in Pennsylvania and be recommended for a certificate provided that program has been approved by the Department of Education as leading to the designated certificate.

Pennsylvania Certificates (PDF) - A listing of the types of certificates available in Pennsylvania, including subject codes found in the Teacher Information management Systems (TIMS).”

Anonymous said...

A system of accountability will ferret out where the vulnerabilities exist.

PDE seems to be accountable to no one, nor does it hold the school districts within . it's per view accountable.

No one is bound to anyone so what you have is fictional and failing .

Questioner said...

Once the Board of Directors decided in 2005 that certification for the superintendent was not necessary, certification for the rest of the positions came to be seen as unnecessary as well.

Anonymous said...

The Board of Directors CANNOT decide that Certification /Letter of Eligibility for Superintendent is "not necessary." The decision to "waiver" that certificate was a one time "waiver" made for Mark Roosevelt by Gov. Rendell * Sec'y of Ed Zahorchak.

Where does the information that "Certification" for the 2005 Superintendent appointment AND the follow-up that
the rest of the positions" were seen as "unnecessary" originate. These are LAWS in PA that cannot be violated. Who and why on the PPS Board are guilty of breaking that law for ALL other positions in PPS?

PDE has no system or personnel for checking every appointment made in all 500 school districts. As you know, hundreds of appointments are made every month in PPS WITHOUT ANYONE submitting these appointments to PDE.

Note: PDE has far fewer "personnel" than PPS. And, there is no way to check job descriptions or "titles" that are posted and approved. The lack of investigation into just one district (whose PR machine earns more than the educators) is virtually impossible--- especially if NO ONE from the Board of Directors is knowledgeable nor accountable!

Anonymous said...

New Board Members take note of the 11:25 excerpt from PENNSYLVANIA CERTIFICATION rules!

Please, in your new positions, be accountable to the children, students, and rules of the PA Department of Education.

Too bad there are no "advocates" for African-American children among the up and coming lawyers in Pittsburgh.

Anonymous said...

Why not provide some of the information being presented here to Jake Wheatley or Melvin Hubbard El or Representative Gainey?

Anonymous said...

In Pennsylvania, the process for earning legitimate CERTIFICATION(s) in EDUCATION is through a University with an acknowledged Education Program who submits to the state (PA-PDE) verification of the programs, courses, passing grades and APPROVAL of the candidate(s) for an official, PA-approved and PA-issued certificate in a specified area, i.e. Reading Specialist, Principal, etc.

When approved by both the University (of origin) and the State (of origin), the CERTIFICATE is issued to the candidate. The candidate will then submit the Certificate to the District where they are making application for a specific position in the certification area. (Note: Most Superintendent’s would not qualify for a Reading, Math or Science positions unless they had earned a designated Certificate in that area.)

A School District cannot, will not, and does not issue Certificates in ANY of the legally designated areas. Certificates must come through the University & PA Department of Education.

The District and its BOARD of Dlrectors are RESPONSIBLE for ascertaining legitimate, official CERTIFICATIONS (including for Superintendent(s)).

Anonymous said...

The poster who provides most of the factual information on this blog has been an educator for more than 30 years and has worked at PPS, (24 years), Pitt (15 years), PDE (15 yrs.with 5 yrs. full-time) . Thus, all information has documented evidence for verification purposes. Just saying . . .

Anonymous said...

That Poster also has a Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral Degrees with seven (7) legitimate, official CERTIFICATES for various positions in a PA School District.

Depth of experience and expertise should give one the right to expressing the KNOWLEDGE acquired, one would think, but not so in PPS, it seems!

Anonymous said...

11:25,1:17 and 3:33

Too much information. The eyes are glazing.

Less is more, UNless of course you are an up and coming lawyer.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it need not be verified by documented evidence to be believed.

There are many individuals who "know" and never have a need to say that they "know" but communicate in such a way that it is received and accepted. Just saying...

Anonymous said...

" He who speaks the truth says almost nothing."__ Porchia

Even the least educated among us 'get it' and in a hot minute.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Certifications from person X, or not, yet without signed messages on a blog make me giggle.

Hard to fix a lack of accountability with less accountability.

The decoder rings and secret handshakes might not be in the public's best interest.

Finally, I will point my questions and wagging finger to Pittsburgh Controller, Michael Lamb, one of the best points of leverage for citizens concerning PPS. How in the heck did the controller's office not wave some flags as to these finance conditions?

Good government .... not so sure.

Mark Rauterkus said...

I wrote to Michael Lamb and he wrote back to me via email....

--- snip ---
I am not sure what the finger wagging in my direction is about. The independent annual audit of the district that this office coordinates has documented these surplus dollars in each of the past few years. We have raised the red flags. In fact our Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports were the basis for the Auditor General's finding.

Unfortunately, my office is not given a budgetary role in certifying revenue projections as we are in the city. As you know my role in the School District is very limited as are the financial resources of the office.

--- end snip ----

My reply to him follows in next comment.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Hi Michael,

It seems as if the PPS Admin and PPS Board are puzzled in that they don't know how much money they have in their accounts. They cry that there isn't enough money, and yet they can't seem to spend enough of the money they do have on the kids. They are running some sizable surpluses.

Do they not know?

On the other hand, PPS should be with a fund balance so that they can weather a storm such as is the case these months without a state budget from the jam in Harrisburg among House, Senate and Governor. Golly, such folly there.

You, as City Controller, might have -- and perhaps you did -- report to the PPS Board and Administrators -- and citizens -- that there are millions of dollars being unspent by the PPS and a sizable fund balance was growing.

I know your duties and role is limited. But I was SURPRISED at the amounts that have grown and gone UNSPENT in the recent years in PPS. What did I overlook from the annual report? Perhaps I was sleeping.

If I remember correctly, many years ago when Dr. John Thompson was PPS Superintendent, PPS had a large fund balance. Folks in Harrisburg became aware of those monies and as the city's finance problems were spinning out of control and into the hands of two OVERLORD Boards, some purse strings were changed in significant ways. The Crossing Guards were once paid fully by CITY of Pgh accounts, and not PPS. And, some $600+ MILLION was pulled from PPS and put elsewhere.

I'm sure that there were plenty of other details that escape me now -- and perhaps then. But, then, it was a bad time to be flush with cash, especially as our school students at the time were in dire need. The need to have resources for today's students isn't any less.

One other community member told me that he was alarmed at how much money was left in those accounts and that they should have been investing more in the past months and years into the education for the kids in the schools. He wondered how that could happen, and I wonder a bit too.

Thanks for your reply and any other details you can share so I'm not scratching my head so much about these PPS finance decisions.

I'll set the record straight on the blog too....

Take care.

Mark Rauterkus said...

And again, from Michael Lamb, Controller:

--- snip ----

I agree with you that PPS needs to be more strategic in its decision making on both the educational and financial fronts.

Part of the financial problem is in projecting revenue at which the district has been overly conservative. This is particularly true for the earned income tax which has seen significant growth since the passing of Act 32 in 2010. The centralized collection and new employer withholding rules have had a big and positive impact.

--- end snip ---


Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, as a taxpayer I'm barely hanging on to my apartment. My taxes are so high and to read this makes it hurt all the more.
I used to watch the board meeting on TV and recall Mr.Isler asking Mr. Joseph at every meeting "how are the financials"? Never once was this huge surplus discussed.
I feel betrayed at the money taken in and the impression was we can not succeed because we're broke.
Also, just recently, Mayor Peduto is giving city taxpayer money to PPS. Can we for once take into consideration the homeowners who are struggling mightily under this tax burden. Plus it seems like Mr. Lamb had a great big shrug when asked to comment.
I'm so angry at these institutions. I want my money back.

PPSparent said...

"Mayor Peduto is giving city taxpayer money to PPS."

Do you have any links for that? I don't think it's the case. Didn't PPS take on the cost of crossing guards from the city several years back? It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but I don't think it's ever gone back.

Not that they shouldn't be able to be honest about their situation. They've cut to the bone in terms of librarians, languages, music, art, PE, and electives in HS and MS, and class sizes are often ridiculously large. There are plenty of ways to spend the money effectively. Halve the size of the administration, give that back in tax rebates, and spend the surplus on the above mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Mark, the school district's financial condition is not new news, at least to this blog. Do you remember the series that was posted in March 2014:

Let's take a walk back in time, listing the all in fund balance:

12/31/2007 = 73,403,945
12/31/2008 = 72,040,438
12/31/2009 = 71,520,707
12/31/2010 = 72,529,250

So from audited 2007 to audited 2010, the fluctuation was less than $1 million on a half billion budget. Then, the results seem to vary wildly after 2010:

12/31/2011 = 82,100,594
12/31/2012 = 88,958,227
12/31/2013 = 113,737,429
12/31/2014 = 129,213,130

In fact, taxes were raised twice in the four years after audited 2010. What changed that changed the accuracy of the district's financial management?

Anonymous said...


Let's take a walk down memory lane to sort fact from fiction:

1. “By 2015, are we broke?” school board member Thomas Sumpter asked. “Correct,” business manager Ronald Joseph replied.”

-Pittsburgh Tribune Review, November 6, 2012

2. “...the new millage rate includes an increase of 0.16 mills, or 1.7 percent, the maximum increase allowed by state law.”

-Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 24, 2013

3. “...the new millage rate includes an increase of 0.16 mills, or 1.7 percent, the maximum increase allowed by state law.”

-Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 24, 2013

Anonymous said...


Here's a few more gems from the local media as fund balance was ballooning:

-On February 5, 2014, CBS reporter Andy Sheehan exclaimed that the School District of Pittsburgh "could be broke in two years without dramatic cuts."

-On February 21, 2014 Eleanor Chute in the Post Gazette stated that the district "is projected to go broke in 2016."

-On February 27, 2014 Bill Zlatos at the Trib reported that Auditor General DePasquale hopes his ongoing audit of the school district will help "prevent financial collapse." Zlatos' story repeats the Bellefield line that the district "is projected to run out of money in 2016."

Anonymous said...


So I'm now going back to the beginning of this steep rise in the district's savings account to see what their financial management team was up to between 2011 and 2015. This might have been THE best Pure Reform post ever, an actual email that came on the heels of layoffs that went further than needed to balance the budget:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lawn furniture for Linda Lane

On another post Anonymous wrote,

"This actual email speaks for itself:

McMullen, Jeanne on behalf of Superintendent Office

To:Operations Office‎; zz-Admin Bldg Only-Offices‎; zz-Budget Development‎; zz-Communications and Marketing‎; zz-Executive Academic Cabinet‎; zz-Executive Cabinet‎; zz-Facilities-ServiceCtr‎; zz-Finance‎; zz-Human Resources‎; zz-Office of Strategic Initiatives‎; zz-Office of Technology‎; zz-OTE‎; zz-Payroll‎; zz-Research Assessment and Accountability
Thursday, August 25, 2011 12:15 PM

Dear Central Office Team,
Thanks to the purchasing prowess of Leon Webb, I am pleased to announce the acquisition of low cost lawn furniture for the Administration Building courtyard for your use. With the cooperation of Mother Nature, we hope to have several months of pleasant weather to still take advantage of this option this year. I appreciate the extra mile folks are going to compensate for the loss of many valued individuals over the past two months. We all recognize that fresh air and sunshine do wonders for the soul, and the good news is that they are free!
Thanks to the “New Staff” group who met last year and provided this suggestion.
We expect to have a gas grill added by the end of this week. It is my hope that we can be conscientious about maintaining the grill and its utensils for the enjoyment of all.
Linda Lane"

Anonymous said...


Looks like this blog called out the Lane Administration for their miscalculations way back in the spring of 2011:

"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.

April 6, 2011 at 7:48 AM"

Questioner said...

Remember MR saying "We would love to have Schenley but we simply cannot afford it." Looks like we very well could have afforded it, but instead will eventually end up paying more to do something about Milliones and Peabody.

Just one of the very real, and irreversible, effects of the district's financial miscalculations.

Anonymous said...


Here's another gem from the early stages of hoarding our tax dollars. Note specifically the role Barbara Byrd Bennett played in financial improprieties in Chicago and Cleveland:

"The following acknowledgement is a direct quotation from the top of page 9 of Dr. Lane's "110 Day Transition Plan.

As I began to develop this document, I was blessed to
have the plans of several other new Superintendents, and
I especially want thank Heath Morrison, PhD for his plan
on which this plan was based. I also wish to thank The Broad Center, Alumni Services in
the persons of Dr. Barbara Byrd Bennett and Ms. Lynn Liao
who provided the vehicle to share the plans as well as an
immediate support to me, to get my new work off to a
strong start!
‐Linda S. Lane "

January 23, 2011 at 1:38 PM"

Anonymous said...

Natalia Rudiak for Controller!

oh wait.

Anonymous said...

re 7:07, I wish I could recall the details about Mayor Peduto giving additional money to PPS. I read it in one of the local papers. I just thought maybe Mr. Lamb could walk across the hall and inform the mayor that PPS is rolling in it and doesn't need the taxpayers money. I'll try to remember what the mayor is giving, personally these entities are never forthcoming about taxes. All they ever want is more.
I remember a recent tax increase, I called a council member to say how I was struggling to pay my bills and taxes when I lost my husband. The response was to go to government agency's for help. I found this ironic, to take my money and then go to them to get it back. Tax me to poor so that I will get on their dole.
This is what we are dealing with. Amazing.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Anonymous said...

Your post is a brilliant campaign add for those of us who are for small government and lower taxes.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying not to be left or right with my post. Anyway, maybe everyone should care more about taxes. Actually, if you even mention that taxes are too high or you can't afford to pay you will be branded selfish, attacked and told to pay you fair share, whatever they can take, example-PPS
All I want to do is to be able to still afford to keep my place in the city.
Real-estate taxes are so difficult to afford and the fear of losing your home can be very worrisome.
I'm not alone in feeling this. I'm not a start-up-robotic, Syrian refuge, Google working-Bakery Square living, bicycle riding hipster. I'm just a daughter of a steel worker who's husband died. Where's the love?

Anonymous said...

PPS used this "going broke" before when a new teachers' contract was due. Then they "found" some money.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Linda Lane thought it necessary to respond to the above opinion piece. I think thou doth protest too much...

Anonymous said...

Kermit Weiss P-G reply
Dr. Lane, the actual audited financial statements for the school district tell a much different story. Across the four year period before you were Superintendent, actual revenues varied from actual expenditures by less than $1 million. Here are those results:

12/31/2007 = 73,403,945
12/31/2008 = 72,040,438
12/31/2009 = 71,520,707
12/31/2010 = 72,529,250

My question to you is this: who did the financial projections for the school district during that period of time such that they managed the budget to near break-even results year over year? Did that resource require the assistance of five consultants at a cost of millions of dollars?

The answer frankly is no, the district clearly had someone on staff that could repeatedly manage revenues to equal expenditures within one-fourth of one percent annually.

So after that period of stability in fund balance, the district appears to lose all capability to predict exactly what needs to be done to balance the budget without raising taxes or cutting too deeply:

12/31/2011 = 82,100,594
12/31/2012 = 88,958,227
12/31/2013 = 113,737,429
12/31/2014 = 129,213,130

During this time period, taxes were raised twice when they did not need to be raised. Will we be getting a tax refund? Lower taxes?

Along the way, one of the reasons the district has cited for growth in fund balance is earned income tax collections. We should all be surprised that this is a surprise. The Tax Collection Committee created by Act 32 voted to privatize EIT collections because the current provider was not the best in the market. This not only reduced cost, but it increased collections. In checking district records, the chair of the tax collection committee for Pittsburgh and Mt. Oliver at the time the change was approved ends up being the very same resource that seemed to have been responsible for four years of budgets where expenditures were equal to revenues within one quarter of one percent.

There are a few other key points. You have celebrated the reduction in debt. What no one has pointed out, but is quite obvious when you walk through our schools, is that over the last four years the district has no invested enough in capital assets to keep pace with depreciation. Your constituents in Pittsburgh grasp the importance of maintaining their investment in their house - by replacing roofs or furnaces, etc.

But the school district's capital assets net of depreciation have declined by more than $60 million during your tenure. This means that the buildings are not being refurbished at a level sufficient to keep pace with their aging infrastructure. This approach is tremendously short sighted. Downstream the impact will be whiplash, as the investment will need to grow even faster to make up for the failure to keep pace during your superintendency.

The math is pretty simple - the 12/31/14 audit shows $28 million in depreciation. If the investment in building renovation is only half of that or less, the district is not being responsible in protecting long-term assets for future generations of students.

Declining enrollment no doubt led to reductions in staffing and the sale of school buildings well before you were superintendent of schools. I have to wonder, however, that by cutting further than necessary to balance the budget and by raising taxes in the city, did this only increase the flight to charter schools? Could more money have been spent on quality career and technical education?

And just in case anyone thinks that the millions in budgeting consultants and the auditor general's report have done anything to change business practices in the district's budget office, take a close look at the internal November 2015 financial statements that are part of the December board agenda. With no explanation or justification, the district is again stockpiling money in an unemployment compensation fund, with fund balance growing year to date by nearly $1.2 million. Why? Are you planning layoffs? Why hasn't the rate been adjusted?

Anonymous said...

It would be helpful for all parties to go back and re-read the original application to the Gates Foundation. In black and white, substantial reductions in teaching staff was a requirement of the plan. It's in the application document. Following four years of very stable fund balance, I have to wonder if the crisis was manufactured to uphold the district's part of the $40 million. There simply is no other good explanation for how the budgeting could be so wrong.

A few final questions:

1. Will the district request a refund from the five firms that worked with Dr. Lane's team on inaccurate budgets?
2. Will anyone investigate why one of those five firms was incorporated in the Commonwealth on the very same day your recommendation to hire them appeared on an agenda?
3. How will the district's labor unions react to the growth in fund balance?

Questioner said...

Here's an idea for the union- don't be duped again- note specifically in the contract that concessions are being made based on predictions that the district is in dire financial condition, and that if a surplus of at least $X materializes, teachers will receive a corresponding corrective supplement equal to a given percentage of their salaries.