Philly Schools Spending Crisis Set to Grow

$3.1 billion is a lot to spend for violent and failing schools. A Pennsylvania Independent report by Maura Pennington examines the School District of Philadelphia’s new budget and highlights some major factors contributing to its long-standing spending crisis.

One of the primary obstacles to fiscal solvency is legacy personnel costs. The average high school teacher makes a healthy $100,000 in salary and benefits, but the district’s looming pension liability is what promises to cripple its finances. Retiree pension costs are set to jump from $73 million this year to nearly $350 million in the next six years.

According to Pennington, “On a per-pupil basis, that works out to $900 per pupil in the district for 2011, growing to $2,300 per pupil by 2020.”

But rising costs don’t stop there. At $264 million per year, debt service accounts for more than transportation, utilities, and food costs combined. In fact, the district has borrowed so much that the city itself had to come to the rescue this October with $50 million in emergency funding.

Ultimately, the district has a more than $300 million budget gap—a gap that will no doubt grow next year. Substantive reforms, including concessions by teachers’ unions, have been proposed, but union leaders are having none of it.

What’s worse than flagrant fiscal mismanagement and academic underachievement? District schools are so dangerous that $30 million will be spent on school police officers this school year alone. Why? 2,300 assaults and 15 rapes in 2011-2012 make Philadelphia schools the most violent in the state—even with police protection.

Read the full story here.