Recovery, Reinvestment, and Ratios

Without stimulus money, "I am quite certain that Pittsburgh, like so many districts across the country, would have had substantial layoffs"-this is what the Pittsburgh Public Schools CFO said in an article this weekend. If we take the additional comments of the District’s spokesperson from the same article we are told that the $47 million in stimulus money that came to the District saved 228 teaching jobs and created 24.

Audited data from the District shows that there were 2,315 teachers and enrollment of 27,922, producing a student/teacher ratio was 12.1. Keeping enrollment constant, if the stimulus prevented any layoffs and added another 24 teachers (bringing the teacher total to 2,339) the ratio fell to 11.9.

Assuming the stimulus money never came-that the District would have been hit with 228 job cuts and never would have created the additional 24-there would be 2,087 teachers and the ratio would be 13.3, about 11% higher than with the stimulus money.

Note that the District’s ratio is lower than that of PA (13.3) and the U.S. (15.5) and would have stayed at or below without the stimulus money. This goes without mentioning that the District spends well in excess on a per-pupil basis but does not deliver commensurate results. So what did taxpayers get for their money exactly? District officials noted that there would have been layoffs, but never explicitly stated what the negative effects on students would have been.