PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A war of words between Mayor Bill Peduto and the Pittsburgh Public Schools is intensifying after the mayor said the district needs to take responsibility for its spending.
Pittsburgh Public Schools is looking to raise your taxes next year unless the city is willing to restore millions of dollars in revenue the district said it lost more than a decade ago.
On Tuesday, Mayor Peduto took the school board to task for not reining in runaway costs and told KDKA’s Andy Sheehan that he’s declined to meet with Superintendent Anthony Hamlet about the district’s budget problems.
“I’m not going to meet with him to bail out a problem that they’ve created but yet don’t want to take to responsibility to fix,” Peduto said.
The school budget keeps doing up while enrollment continues to slide, and the district is now proposing a 2.3 percent tax increase to cover a proposed budget of $665 million.
This for a total enrollment of just more than 21,000 students, which has fallen steadily from 38,000 over the last two decades.
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Peduto said the district’s budget has increased $137 million since he became mayor and spending has risen to more than $28,000 dollars per year for each student, the highest in the state.
And yet academic performance is down, including a 7 percent drop this year in third-grade reading scores.
“Right now in Pittsburgh Public Schools, 1 out of 2 students can’t read at a third-grade level in third grade. And those numbers are getting worse, not better even though the spending has gone up so much over the past five years with no accounting of where that money went to,” Peduto said.
A spokesperson for the school district said the superintendent has no comment.
But in the past year, KDKA has reported extensively on excessive travel costs, tens of millions spent for unproven educational technology and 621 loosely monitored credit cards floating around the district.
“They have a lot of hard work to do. They need to do it. And when I see that there is responsibility from the board and the administration, I will sit down with them,” Peduto said.