PITTSBURGH – It seems the Pittsburgh school district has a long-term problem with debt.

where your school dollars goWhile many districts around the nation have recovered financially since the Great Recession, Pittsburgh seems plagued with constant budget deficits.

In January 2014, for example, the district had an “operating deficit” of about $14 million, after raising property taxes by two percent, according to PostGazette.com.

In January 2016, the deficit stood at $23.6 million, after the school board decided against a property increase, according to Pittsburgh Business Times.

Perhaps it’s time for the school board to start looking at expenses, to determine how they can shake the persistent debt and get the district back in the black.

A good place to start would be the payroll, which may be a bit inflated.

The first clue is the fact that in 2013-14, 167 district employees made a straight salary of at least $100,000, and many on that list made a lot more.

The highest paid employees were Superintendent Mark Roosevelt, who made a cool $225,000, and fellow Superintendent Linda Lane, who made $220,000.

They were followed in the top 10 by Assistant Superintendent Jeannine French ($142,000), Assistant Superintendent Jerri Lippert ($142,000), an employee named Janice Ripper, whose title was not listed ($132,515), Assistant Superintendent Christiana Otuwa ($131,000), Assistant Superintendent Barbara Rudiak ($131,000), Principal Sandra Och ($127,780), Principal Jerry Minsinger ($126,780), and an employee named Cynthia Muehlbauer ($125,764), whose title was not listed.

Remember, those are just salaries, without various stipends, bonuses or expensive benefits figured in.

The 167 employees brought home a total of $18.5 million in straight salary that year. If such a small number of employees made so much that year, just how bloated is the total payroll?

We know the top end of the payroll is definitely top-heavy. 141 of the 167 were classified as “administrative/supervisory.” Only two teachers, the people who actually instruct the children, were listed in the $100,000 club.

Does student performance justify what all those highly-paid administrators and supervisors are making?

Perhaps not. The first clue is 2015 state test scores for Pittsburgh 11th graders.

According to the district’s state report card, the percentage of Pittsburgh students demonstrating proficiency in English, math and science was significantly lower than the state average.

In English, 65.8 percent of Pittsburgh students were proficient, compared to 72.7 percent statewide, a difference of 6.9 percent.

It gets worse. In math, 52.4 percent of Pittsburgh students made the grade, compared to 64.4 percent statewide, a difference of 12 percent.

And then there’s science. Only 29.6 percent of Pittsburgh students were proficient, compared to 58.9 percent statewide. That’s an embarrassing difference of 29.3 percent.

In short, there are a lot of good reasons for the Pittsburgh school board to take a close look at who’s making how much, and whether or not they deserve it.

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