The Hamlet Effect

The Hamlet Effect

Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet is wont to say that all the attention being paid to investigations into his alleged ethics lapses are taking attention away from the district’s students.

But he should have thought of that before engaging in practices that spawned the multiple reviews.

The latest attention-diverting episode for Hamlet came last Tuesday   when Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale ripped the superintendent’s frequent travel proclivities as “inexcusable.”

DePasquale says overall school district travel has increased 180 percent under Hamlet’s watch with travel spending averaging $24,250 a month and with little or no justification.

KDKA-TV reports Hamlet himself has taken 23 trips in three years at a cost of more than $32,000.

Hamlet defends the increased staff travel and his trips as proper and necessary for professional development, the key to improving student outcomes.

Unfortunately, student outcomes at too many of Pittsburgh’s public schools remain pathetic.

Hamlet has raised a number of ethics eyebrows for a vendor-sponsored trip to Cuba that was not, as it should have been, approved by the full school board, no-bid tech contracts and for being a paid consultant to an educational services company with which the district has contracted.

All these distractions come in a continuing climate of quite high per-pupil spending and abysmal overall academic results, fueled in part by high absentee rates.

The bottom line remains that the practice of public policy must be beyond reproach. The more questions that are raised about Hamlet’s actions make that necessity less likely while disserving students and taxpayers alike.

This “Hamlet Effect” is wholly unflattering.

Meanwhile, in another public policy matter, the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reports that a “progressive” poll suggests 62 percent of 1,106 people surveyed “strongly” are or are “somewhat” in favor of raising the commonwealth’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

One can only wonder how many of those polled will either lose their jobs, see their hours of work reduced or not be able to find work at all if, by fiat, government overprices their services.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).