PHILADELPHIA – News reports tell us that the Philadelphia school district has reached the financial breaking point yet again, and may not be able to operate through June without a fresh injection of state dollars.
Now it’s becoming clear why money is such a problem for the Philadelphia district. It hasn’t been managing its resources very well at all.
A federal appeals court ruled last week that the district must return $7.2 million of the $245 million in grant money it received from the federal government in 2005, because the money was misspent on items that had nothing to do with the purpose of the grant, according to Philly.com.
According to the website, the U.S. Department of Education’s Inspector General’s Office audited the district and found that “money intended to educate low-income students was spent on things such as catering, a mini-fridge, a microwave oven, greeting cards, and salaries and benefits for employees who had nothing to do with the grants.”
News reports suggest that far more than $7.2 million was misspent, but that’s the amount the federal government decided to seek in repayment.
The audit said the district’s misuse of the money was “intentional, improper, and taken with reckless disregard for the regulations and statutes,” Philly.com reported.
Free and wasteful spending has been a pattern in the school district for at least a few years. There are plenty of examples.
In 2014-15 the district reported having a budget deficit of about $400 million and demanded $40 million from the state to open in the fall.
At the same time it had 395 employees making at least $100,000 per year for a total of $51.7 million. That list included 225 building principals whose average salary was $137,919.
In 2012, the district spent $165 million on health insurance for employees, while only requiring employees to contribute a collective $270,550 toward the cost.
It spent $15.3 million on severance pay for teachers who left the district for any reason, including bad ones.
It spent $66 million on an employee Health and Welfare fund. It spent $2.6 million on personal legal services for employees.
The list goes on and on. That’s why it’s no surprise that so much grant money went down the toilet and must be repaid.