Baltimore parents and taxpayers are livid to learn problems with the school district’s payroll could be the latest in a long list of financial issues plaguing the perpetually cash-strapped system.
A long-time unidentified educator in the district alerted Fox 45 in 2017 to payroll discrepancies at Edmondson Westside High School, and the news station has since expanded its investigation to discover similar problems at other schools.
“People at home need to question the administrators in the school,” the source told the news site.
“Students are in dire need of money, programs, books,” the teacher said. “It’s a bigger problem than the one story.”
The news site discovered Edmondson Westside employed two principals with six figure salaries, despite the fact that only one showed up for work. The other, allegedly, worked at a school in Kuwait.
Fox 45 later identified at least nine schools in the city that employed two principals in 2017, even though some haven’t been to their schools in years.
At Abbottston Elementary, one of the principals hasn’t been there in five years, district officials confirmed in a statement to the news site.
The so-called principal collected $124,808 in 2017, but “her assignment since 2013 has been at the district office.” The employee in question listed her title as “Strategic Climate Support Specialist” in a 2016 email.
Baltimore schools’ office of Chief of Schools also lists two principals on the payroll, though district officials confirmed only one actually reports to work there.
The district previously issued a statement to explain that “a staff member (on leave) retains the title of her of his last active assignment for reporting purposes in (the payroll) database” but has not elaborated on how others have remained unchanged for years, or what officials are doing to correct the situation.
Meanwhile, a third of the city’s high schools reported that not a single student scored proficient in math on state tests in 2017, Fox News reports.
Students in younger grades also recorded some of the lowest test scores in the nation.
According to The Baltimore Sun:
In fourth- and eighth-grade reading, only 13 percent of city students are considered proficient or advanced. In fourth-grade math, 14 percent were proficient and in eighth-grade math 11 percent met the mark, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federally mandated test from the U.S. Department of Education.
That put the Baltimore ahead of only Detroit and Cleveland, and sometimes ahead of Milwaukee and Fresno, Calif. — areas of the country that also suffer from high poverty and crime.
The questions about the district’s payroll are only the latest symptom of systemic financial and other mismanagement that’s plagued Baltimore schools for decades. A state audit released in October found the school system still has not corrected many of the problems identified in a 2012 state audit, including overpayment to bus contractors and taxi companies, millions in unapproved purchases, questionable and unnecessarily expensive contracts with vendors, tens of millions in pay raises without approval, and many other issues, the Baltimore Business Journal reports.
“We need accountability,” Republican state Delegate Kathy Szeliga, a former Baltimore teacher, told Fox 45.
Szeliga and others are calling for a full audit of the district’s $700 million payroll to flesh out other problems that are undoubtedly costing taxpayers more than they realize.
“Because of your reporting at Project Baltimore (Fox 45), we’re actually going to get some attention to this. We have to act,” she said. “We cannot continue to let Baltimore City waste dollars that really belong to our students.”