Is the District padding its books on Central Office Administration?

As I was slogging through the District’s 400-plus page budget book, I was struck by the significant increases and expansions within various central office administration budgets. (All references are to the District's FY2011-12 Consolidated Budget).

Consider: The Associate Superintendent for Academic Support (p. 306)

  • In FY10 there were 50 filled positions
  • In FY11 there were 90 estimated positions (but no indication they were filled)
  • In FY12 the request is back down to 49.5 positions.

Included in FY11 was the proposal to start up two entirely new offices, one for student discipline, hearings and expulsions, and another for non-instructional school support. In. the. middle. of. a. budget.crisis.

The result is a “45% savings” in that office of $3.68 million dollars from FY11 but an increase of $309,357 from FY10.

Consider: Office of the Chief Financial Officer (p. 328)

  • In FY10 there were 84 filled positions.
  • In FY11 the office projected 108 positions (but no indication they were filled)
  • In FY12 the request is 66.3 positions.

In that office there is a loss of 38.6% of position from FY11 to FY12, but only a 21% loss from FY10 to FY12.

Consider: “Other Administrative Offices” which covers seven different offices (p. 387)

  • In FY10, there were 209 filled positions.
  • In FY11 there is a projected 240 estimated positions (but no indication they were filled)
  • In FY12 they will go down to 124 positions.

The result is more dramatic here, a 40% loss from FY10 to FY12. But this section also projected starting a new office – the Associate Superintendent of Schools office –and more than doubling the number of people in the charter school office.

It expands the Superintendent’s office from 16 to 25 people from FY10 to FY12, to a current cost of $3.87 million. Within the Superintendent’s office there is the hiring of five positions that weren’t filled as of December 2010, including a $144K Deputy of Operations Improvement. So if, theoretically that office took the promised 50% cut to 13 people, it would really only be a 20% loss of 3 people from FY10.

The District’s proposed $2.8 million/20-person communications office shows a 23% expansion in funds over FY10, and includes three positions which weren’t filled as of December 2010.

What’s my point? The point is that there are great schools doing good work across this city which are genuinely suffering next year, and I’m really questioning whether this administration has adopted a “share the pain” mentality around this budget. The District has made a big deal about 50% cuts in central office. And while I have no doubt some departments will get significantly downsized if not eliminated, I have concerns that pet programs and initiatives of the District – no matter their value or performance or what the data says – are not being fully reviewed.

It's also further proof that financial oversight of the District is necessary. Who else is looking through the District books to ask questions that ought to be far more incisive and professional than mine?

I was at Furness High School yesterday for their National Honor Society Induction, a wonderful ceremony for a small school. That school is losing $1.4 million from its budget, and 17 personnel from a 600-student school including the school’s music teacher and choir director.

Furness High School is why these questions need to be asked, and why we need better answers than the ones we’re being given. If the public is being asked to turn over more money to our schools then we do have a responsibility to know whether we’re simply providing cover for the District’s poor spending practices and priorities or whether this additional money is really “for the children.”

Hopefully, the IRS auditors are reading YPP

IRS opens detailed audit into Phila. School District's financial practices

Way Overdue

The fiscal shennanegans at the Philadelphia School District definitely need sunshine. And I hope it throws a monkey wrench in Nutter's campaigning to raise gap funds to the school district.

It's very obvious to everyone that the PSD does not spend money wisely. Maybe not as bad as PHA is, but it definitely needs improvement if it ever wants to regain the trust of the voting public.

The Philadelphia School District budget is the same size as the City of Philadelphia's budget. Something is clearly wrong, here.

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