Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Auditor General: Pps Board Must Rein in District Travel Costs

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Auditor General: Pps Board Must Rein in District Travel Costs

Article excerpt

Pittsburgh Public Schools' board should rein in the district's "runaway" travel costs, which have nearly doubled over the past three years, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Wednesday following a five-month review.

He plans to refer the results of his review to the State Ethics Commission.

"Fiscal oversight by Pittsburgh's school board appears to be practically nonexistent when it comes to the superintendent's penchant for travel," Mr. DePasquale said in a news release.

Board President Lynda Wrenn did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The auditor general launched the review in May after questions emerged regarding a trip to Cuba taken by Superintendent Anthony Hamlet and several of his top staff. Mr. DePasquale examined PPS administrator travel, vendor-sponsored trips and the district's no-bid contracts.

Per the analysis, the district's $453,231 travel budget spiked by 179% over three years, even as it struggles to manage a nearly $30 million operating deficit.

He noted that the district's travel spending is roughly twice as large as Philadelphia's, despite that district enrolling roughly 10 times as many students. On a per-pupil basis, PPS' travel spending outpaces Philadelphia's 19-to-1, he said.

"If the purpose of administrator travel is to improve the quality of education - as Pittsburgh officials have claimed in the past - students there should be performing 19 times better than students in Philadelphia," Mr. DePasquale said. "None of the other districts we talked to even come close to spending what Pittsburgh does on administrator and staff travel."

In an initial report, the auditor general found that Superintendent Anthony Hamlet and former Assistant Superintendent Anthony Anderson took at least 21 out-of-state trips in the past calendar year. Those locales included Washington, D.C., Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Mr. DePasquale suggested that cuts to the travel budget could offset some of the district's proposed 2. …

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