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How Is Your School Spending Its Money? The Answer Could Soon Be Online

How are Pennsylvania school districts spending your tax money?

SchoolWATCH, a bill aimed at answering that question, was approved by the House of Representatives Monday.

It would direct the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to create a website displaying the revenues and expenditures of traditional public, charter and cyber school districts in the commonwealth.

The legislation’s author, Representative Jim Christiana (R-Beaver), said they want to create an “easy-to-use” database.

“So that people, constituents of the media can look at individual school districts’ spending, break it down even to school buildings per district,” Christiana said. “And we’re allowing the Department of Education to create that database in the best way that they see fit.”

According to Christiana, individual teacher salaries would not be posted but would be grouped together as “personnel costs.”

However, the website would post school administrators’ names, positions and compensation.

He said he hopes to have the school districts’ financial statements posted within six months if the bill is passed.

Christiana wants to have all final budgets for all public schools posted within 12 months of passage.

“My hope is that we will uncover waste and redundancies through the website by letting folks from all over the country audit our education system and vendors might be able to see where school districts are overpaying for services and they’ll be able to compete and lower prices,” Christiana said.

An amendment to the bill also directs the PDE to develop data that links student academic performance to school spending.

SchoolWATCH is modeled after Christiana’s 2011 legislation, PennWATCH, which provided expenditures by state agencies to taxpayers.

“Let’s not forget that this money comes from hard-working taxpayers that send their money to Harrisburg or send their money to school districts and property taxes,” Christiana said. “They have a right, in my opinion, to see how that money’s being spent and not have to jump through hoops to get it.”

The legislation is waiting consideration by the Senate.