- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
The BRT, patronage, and $5 million of school money
As daunting as the School District’s 552 page online budget is, it’s funny how much it can reveal about ingrained systems that cost our society -- things like say, patronage.
Buried at the bottom of page 385 under the category “Undistributed Budgetary Adjustment/Interfund Transfers/Other,” it shows 85 BRT employees on the School District’ payroll for a cost of $4.7 million in FY08. That’s 18% more than it was last year. Next year at $4.9 million it will be almost a million dollars more than just a year ago.
Parents United for Public Education requested a list of the BRT employees (who are listed as real estate assessors). A review found that 74 employees are currently on the District’s payroll. Over 40% of them hold political positions, including two ward leaders and committee leaders.
What’s wrong with this picture? A lot.
- First, what specifically do these people do on behalf of the schools and why do we need so many of them?
- Second, the fact that such a large percentage of them appear to hold political positions and are outside the scope of both the city (even though they’re doing city work) and the School District (since they work offsite at the Curtis Center) raises concerns that all the jobs are as necessary and efficient as they ought to be.
- And finally, $4.9 million may not seem a lot to some people, but it would almost double the arts and music programs in the school that were allotted this year. It would buy back 50 teachers, a third of the number cut this year. It would more than buy back the 25% librarian losses we suffered this year.
Conventional wisdom has been that since the schools receive 60% of the real estate taxes, the District should therefore assume a similar portion of the BRT expenses. However, there’s a big difference between billing the schools for real and actual expenses, and putting 85 employees on the District’s payroll who are outside the supervision of the District.
This isn’t a new struggle. A few years back, former School District CEO Paul Vallas tried to remove the 31 employees from the City Controller’s office who also sit on the District’s payroll (page 362) as well as highlight the BRT employees. It was apparently a lonely and unsuccessful battle.
But it is, as they say, a new day, and it remains to be seen whether things could change under a new administration.
Last week Parents United for Public Education sent a letter to the Board of Revision of Taxes asking them to remove BRT employees from the School District payroll and to justify expenses that compete with the education of kids. It’s not that we want to second-guess the work of the BRT, but we do need some accountability from agencies that park their expenses on our kids’ dime.
For more information, the list of employees, and to read Parents United’s letter to Charlesretta Meade, chair of the BRT, check out Parents United’s website.