Goodbye Superintendent, Better Luck at Your New Job

In a going away interview the Pittsburgh school superintendent regaled the interviewers with how hard he worked to make a difference. He declared success in improving teacher effectiveness and creating the Promise Scholarship Program. He was more modest in regretting that only modest improvement was achieved in the high schools.

Too bad he did not mention the Promise Program’s failure to keep or attract students as its advocates predicted excitedly it would. Enrollment continues to fall, especially in the high schools. Nor has the Program helped academic progress. Indeed, as we have suggested earlier, there is a very real possibility the Promise Program has reduced incentive of serious students to work hard.

After five years, per students costs have not been reduced despite school closings and fewer teachers employed. Meanwhile, non-teaching administrative jobs have jumped sharply. Moreover, the District has maintained its spending levels without raising tax rates because of a $40 million infusion of state money provided through the Federal stimulus program. The next budget cycle will look a lot different as the Federal money is no longer available. A tax increase is almost inevitable.

So here’s wishing the outgoing superintendent better luck at his new job. Resurrecting a bankrupt college might be a snap compared to making progress in an urban school district.

One wonders if in his heart of hearts he ever thought, "You know. There might be something to this school choice, voucher idea." That could keep a person awake nights for a long time.