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State Lawmaker Wants to Keep Track Of Financially Distressed School Districts

A state senator has said he wants information about financially ailing school districts so the state can help out before it’s too late.

Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) met with state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis asking for information on all school districts that have been designated for financial watch status or identified for monitoring.

The problem, however, isn’t that the Department of Education (DOE) is withholding a list from the senator, but Tomalis told Brewster the problem is there currently is no complied list of schools in trouble.

Brewster, who sent a Right-To-Know request to the DOE on the subject in March, said without a list of districts with financial issues, he can’t do anything to help.

“I would know where they’re at, and I’d be working with the legislature and anybody else that could help to fix those problems,” he said. “That was my point: (Sect. Tomalis) didn’t have the list, and I don’t have the list, therefore I can’t help. All I can do is sit and wait.”

Brewster’s concern stems from the state of the Duquesne City School District, which was put in receivership in 2012, meaning the district is under state control.

Brewster feels a lot of these problems stem from Gov. Tom Corbett’s education cuts.

“A year ago when the governor passed his budget, public education got cut by $1 billion dollars, roughly,” Brewster said. “Eighty percent of 500 school districts raised their local school taxes. Now if you went to those 80 percent and all the people that lived in those communities, you think they would have been as happy about that $1 billion dollar cut from the state, knowing that all it was going to do was create a backdoor tax increase for them?”

While there are no concrete numbers, Brewster estimates as many as 75 districts out of 500 may be in financial trouble.