Philly school district under microscope by state

Posted: April 11, 2014

STATE AUDITOR GENERAL Eugene DePasquale, with Superintendent William Hite at his side, announced yesterday that his office has begun a performance audit of the city's school district.

A.G.'s office staff began preparations with the district on April 1. The auditors are expected to be inside the district at the end of the month, A.G. spokeswoman Susan Woods said.

"The Philadelphia School District is the largest school district in Pennsylvania and a key economic driver for the state," DePasquale said during a news conference. Chief Financial Officer Matthew E. Stanski was also in attendance.

The audit will cover 2008 to 2012, before the Hite administration began, and is expected to look at:

* Teacher and administrator certification

*  Student transportation

*  Financial stability

*  School safety

*  School district governance

"If there are issues, we're going to make sure they're fully addressed," DePasquale said. "We are going to put forward not only the criticisms, because anyone can tear a house down, but we'll also put forward recommendations on how, if we find a problem, how that problem can be fixed."

Academics are the main priority, he said. The review will look at both test scores and how those results are "doing in relation to the [school] funding," he said.

His office also will assess how the local economy is impacting performance, he said.

DePasquale said he would examine how the district "was negatively affected by the loss of the charter-school tuition reimbursement" in 2011.

The numbers say it all, he said. If the city's charter schools were one district, then it would be the state's second-largest district, wedged between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

"There's going to be very little doubt that this is going to create an undue financial strain on the district since the 2011 state budget," he predicted.

Said Hite: "It's extremely important to get as much information from individual third-party groups as possible about how effective we are able to use funding that we have."

Auditors will also look at whether the 200,000-student district took "appropriate corrective actions" to address findings released in a March 2011 audit report and its special audit last year of former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's contract buyout.

The auditor general's final report on the district will be issued sometime next year.

On Twitter: @ReginaMedina


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