School District Takes Lavish Retreat Amid Budget Crisis

If you’re one of the most violent school districts in Pennsylvania, failing your students, and borrowing to make ends meet, would you spend money on a lavish retreat?  If you’re the Wilkinsburg School District, the answer is yes. Here is an excerpt from the troubling story courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

The Wilkinsburg School District is in such difficult financial condition that this calendar year it went on the state’s financial watch list, took out a $3 million loan, voted to eliminate some teaching and administrative positions this fall and charges the highest property tax rate in Allegheny County.

But it still was able to pay for a two-night professional development retreat for administrators, staying Aug. 13 and 14 at the luxurious Nemacolin Woodlands Resort where the resort tab was $15,665.50—which amounted to more than $1,000 per person.

The bill included 13 rooms at $229 plus $20.61 tax per night, meals running as high as $85.50 per person and $1,300 in gift cards, one for each of the 13 guests at $100 each to spend at the resort.

While it may be necessary for administrators to use a retreat as a chance to relax and build professional relationships, a school district that is in horrible financial shape should not be spending such an obscene amount of money on a retreat. Maybe the money used for the retreat could have been better spent on figuring out how to help students learn in failing Wilkinsburg Borough schools?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the Wilkinsburg School District has spent a large sum of money on retreats. The district spent more than $30,000 for two retreats in 2011 and 2012.

Instead of continuing to funnel taxpayer money to persistently failing school districts, lawmakers should consider expanding school choice options to throw students a lifeline and save taxpayers from the burden of paying higher taxes.