There’s A lot of Admin Space at the PPS

Lather, rinse, repeat. An outside reform group says that the Pittsburgh Public Schools have done a good job on costs but more needs to be done. The head of the teachers’ union says that the District’s teachers at the top of the scale don’t make nearly as much as the typical teacher at the top of the scale in western PA and that there is too much administrative bloat. "There still seems to be a number of people [at the District’s headquarters]" said the head of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.

The union head does have a point. We wrote a Brief in 2010 which looked at the student to employee ratios for "teachers" and "non-teachers" and saw that the ratio for teachers had stayed the same over the decade while it had doubled for non-teachers. The audited data has not been updated, so one wishing to see how many students per teacher or non-teacher still has to use 2009 data. That’s true too of the District’s measure of "Building Functional and Educational Capacity" which measures the number of buildings and square footage the District devotes to certain uses. Not only are there more people at headquarters but there is much more space in the District devoted to that use.

In 2000 the District had two buildings and 129,000 square feet devoted to administration and finance (referred to as A/F). It had a total of 9.5 million square feet, meaning about 1% of the total space was used for A/F. It also means that 9.398 million was used for something other than A/F. In 2000, there was 72.8 square feet of non-A/F use for every 1 square foot of A/F use.

In 2009, total square footage of capacity had fallen to 7.343 million as a result of closings. But the square footage of A/F had risen to 390,600 (and an additional building), pushing the percentage share up over 5%. The ratio of non-A/F space (6.953 million) to A/F space (0.390 million) was 17.8 square feet to 1.

Will there be a pitched battle between the teachers and administrators in the PPS that will rival the coming battle between drivers and mechanics and supervisors and management when the Port Authority’s contract gets heated?

Rightsizing the Pittsburgh School District

At last count-at least at the point in time of the last audited statement-the Pittsburgh Public School District had 71 buildingstotaling 7,343k square feet. That was down from 100 buildings and 9,527k square feet in 2000. The building count is expected to decrease in the 2012-13 school year is another realignment plan is approved. All told, five buildings will be shuttered completely after certain schools are closed and programs and operations move to buildings in a new arrangement.

The majority-over 90% in fact-of the District’s square footage is related to elementary, middle, special and secondary education. In 2000, the District had 4 buildings with 287k of square feet used for administrative and financial support (2), operation and maintenance of plant (1), and food service (1). The combined 287k of those buildings represented 3% of all square footage. By 2009 the District had added another building counted as administrative and financial support (with 261k of square feet) and the resulting square footage of "back office" space rose to 548k. With total square footage in the District standing at 7,343k, the District’s share of square footage for administration, maintenance, and food rose to 7%.

We have written a lot about the headcount related to "teachers" and "non-teachers" in the District and the ratio of those classifications to enrollment. In short, the relative size of non-teachers has risen tremendously while the teacher ratio has remained flat. It is no surprise that square footage has exhibited a similar trend and that, in the latest round of cuts, no administrative space is disappearing.

The Math of City Job School Cuts

The Pittsburgh Public Schools’ board of directors just voted on another round of job cuts (furloughs and layoffs) adding on to the ones last month in order to deal with financial shortfalls and declining enrollment. We documented recent tax and expenditure details of the District last November and warned of tough times to come.

As of the 2009 audited financial statement, the District’s job headcount included 2,315 teachers and 2,570 non-teachers. The latter group includes everyone in administration, instruction employees not identified as teachers, pupil affairs, health, operations and maintenance, and food service. As of that year the ratio of non-teachers to teachers was 1.1/1.

Last month’s job cuts of 147 people was concentrated in the central office, and this month’s reduction of people identified as paraprofessionals (13), family support (4), non-professional (2), behavior intervention (6), career/technical (1), and early childhood coordinators (2) drops the non-teacher count from its 2009 total of 2,570 to 2,395.

Yesterday’s job cuts also affected 23 teachers, and that drops the teacher count to 2,292. That drops the non-teacher to teacher ratio to 1.04/1. Depending on how cuts affecting eight part-time teachers figure into the headcount, the ratio might bump slightly upward in favor of non-teachers.

Board Bemoans Pittsburgh Schools Job Cuts

With moans of regret and lamentations over the sadness they felt, members of the Pittsburgh School Board voted by an 8 to 1 margin to eliminate 217 positions from its horribly bloated payroll. Of that number 147 represents currently employed staff that will be laid off in the budget cutting measure that is expected to save $11.5 million.

Here’s the bad news for the board. Their budget cutting is just getting started. Last November the Allegheny Institute warned the school board of a gigantic impending financial crisis about to land on its doorstep. Despite sharply declining enrollment and falling real estate tax collections during the 2006 to 2010 period, school spending continued to rise as new non-teaching employees were added in a display of unbridled profligacy and irresponsibility. The burgeoning future budget shortfall was temporarily filled by jumps in state funding and Federal "stimulus" funds.

As we have pointed out for some time, the state would eventually have to rein in spending in the face of a $4 billion revenue shortfall and Federal funds would dry up as the Congress turns its attention to exploding deficits and economy corroding debt buildup. Now the wolf is at the school house door in Pittsburgh as a result of years of failed financial stewardship and failure to deliver schools capable of adequately educating students.

No amount of pointing out their highly visible shortcomings was ever enough. The board, the teachers’ union, the superintendents and too many politicians in thrall to the specious malarkey of educrats resisted any meaningful reforms, opting for gimmicks and ever more spending as the answer to the problem of delivering quality education.

One could hope that game is over. But in all likelihood, the board’s lachrymose caterwauling as they voted to cut 217 positions signals an unrepentant mentality that continues to believe that in a couple of years, things will get back to normal.

Given the prospects for further enrollment declines and a much tougher stance in Harrisburg with regard to the unproductive and wasteful use of education dollars in the City, the board’s hopes for a miracle on a white horse to ride in are wishful dreaming. It is a good time for the board to lay in a large supply of crying towels.

Why So Many Non-Teaching Employees in Pittsburgh Schools?

A pop quiz as another school year gets underway: what is the student-to-teacher ratio in the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS)?  According to the most recent audited data (2009) the District shows 27,922 students and 2,315 teachers giving a ratio of 12 to 1. That’s only slightly changed from 2000 when the District had 38,560 students and 3,377 teachers for an 11.4 to 1 student ratio.


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