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Pittsburgh Public Schools Facing Tough Decisions

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Andy Sheehan Andy Sheehan
KDKA-TV Investigator Andy Sheehan began his broadcast journalism...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh Public Schools are running on an $18 million dollar budget and could be broke in two years without dramatic cuts.

But, there could be another way if they sell off millions of dollars in assets that the district owns, but doesn’t use.

As it stands, the school board needs to make tough decisions.

Recently, members voted against closing Woolslair Elementary, which has fewer than 100 students.

They won’t sell two closed school buildings, turning down $915,000 from Propel Charter School for Columbus on the North Side and $475,000 for Burgwin in Hazelwood.

On top of that, last week, board member Mark Brentley held a meeting on whether the district should buy the debt-riddled August Wilson Center, while looking at a debt that could put the district in receivership.

“I am really not too much concerned about that. Our job is to provide quality public education for the students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools,” said Brentley.

So far, the board has not adopted a single measure proposed by Superintendent Dr. Linda Lane to close the budget gap.

“It can’t be me. It can’t just be me that wants to do this. It’s going to take the will of the board as well,” Lane said.

But, does the board have the will to do other things that might help close the budget gap? What about recommendations laid out in a study they paid for more than a year ago?

It says all of the desks, books, artwork and other materials from 20 vacant schools should be collected in one school-turned-warehouse and be auctioned or sold.

Right now, they’re all just gathering dust.

“I think we’re going to have to pursue it all because clearly unloading excess is far better than cutting things you already have and things you want,” said Lane.

But, the big ticket item would be to sell the signature administration building in Oakland, which real estate experts say could get somewhere between $10 and $20 million, and move district offices to one of the vacant schools.

Lane says that would be a difficult move, but perhaps one whose time has come.

“If we can find a perfect match, I’d be happy to talk to the board about considering that,” Lane said.

The board has four new members, who say they’d like time to study the issues.

“If you make rash decision, they come back and hurt you. I want to see all the data. I want to make a data-driven decision,” said board member Terry Kennedy.

The board may not have the luxury of time. This debt is pressing, the consequences are dire, which leaves little doubt that tough decisions will need to be made.

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