PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Any way you do the math, Pittsburgh Public Schools, as well as some suburban schools, are seriously in danger of a flunking grade in financial health.
“The Pittsburgh Public School District has a contract next year for the teachers union – and the following year there’s a projection that could show it facing bankruptcy,” Mayor Bill Peduto said.
Mayor Peduto and State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale want to take a cold, hard look at issues affecting public schools. They are counting on the School Board and District Administrators to work with them.
And DePasquale is launching his first statewide schools audit, with Pittsburgh at the top of the list of high risk districts.
“Our audit will be a road map for how we fix the problems,” he said.
Information from a 2013 audit was used to decide which districts would go first says De Pasquale.
“And that’s not just because of the size of the city – but simply the financial challenges the city school district is facing,” he said.
The Pittsburgh School District is facing a nearly $50 million budget deficit by the end of 2016.
A 2 percent increase in millage on city property taxes passed last week won’t come close to whittling away the deficit spending.
And tuition payments for students attending charter schools are increasing. The state formerly reimbursed districts a portion of those payments, but since Gov. Tom Corbett cut those reimbursements, Pittsburgh schools now have $2.5 million less to work with.
Initially, the Mayor and the State Auditor may seem like an odd couple when it comes to education – but improving city schools is a key component of Mayor Peduto’s agenda to bring more people into the city.
“The idea is to be able to attract 20,000 new residents to the City of Pittsburgh – the two biggest issues if you ask any realtor are taxes and schools,” he said.
Things to be considered in the new audit: test scores – dollars spent – school safety – and the impact of pre- and post-charter school reimbursements.
“We’re going to continue to keep the heat on until the necessary change happens,” DePasquale said.