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Public Education Group Analyzes Pittsburgh Schools

An independent study by A+ Schools reports the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) has made "solid progress" towards financial stability.

Carey Harris, executive director of A+, said the city school system took decisive action to cut its budget deficit from a projected $100 million to $30 million.

She said the report also notes the Governor Corbett's proposed state budget for 2012-2013 has not restored funding cuts made last year to public schools.

"The governor, I guess, had decided that public education is not where he's going to invest scarce state resources," said Harris. "And so, what that has meant is it has shifted the burden onto local school districts to either raise taxes and fund their districts more based on their own tax base, or to make cuts. And Pittsburgh is in the position where they've just had to make cuts."

Harris said the proposed budget eliminates state accountability block grants the district spends on pre-k education. She said about 2,500 kids benefit from Pittsburgh's preschool program and are generally more prepared for elementary school because of it.

"If those cuts continue, it really threatens the district's ability to offer those programs to kids," said Harris. "Which in turn, is going to impact the district's ability to make sure those kids do well in school once they're in elementary school. So it's a vicious cycle, and it's our most vulnerable kids, our youngest, most vulnerable kids that will be effected."

A+ Schools is recommending PPS take on several initiatives aimed at cost cutting, including:

  • Compare the district's collective bargaining agreement with neighboring school districts.
  • Impose a temporary wage freeze for employees not covered by the collective bargaining agreement.
  • Continue a current hiring freeze
  • Work with state leaders to change the state's School Employees retirement System
  • Continue to explore ways to cut healthcare costs, including looking for new providers and considering a higher employee contribution rates.

Harris said they plan to continue monitoring the district's cost reduction efforts and state budget deliberations. She said anyone interested in the cuts are welcome to attend a Feb 23rd community forum. Information can be found on A+'s website.