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Is This Child Neglect?

CHILD NEGLIGENCE - Our children are more important than this!

The Auditor General of Pa’s Special Performance Audit Report, (Oct. 6, 2015), is the results of two performance audits of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). It contains 30 recommendations and states that:

  1. The PDE did not provide adequate or additional assistance to 561 academically challenged, poor performing schools with 310,000 students. Using school performance profile scores from 2013-14, 814 academically challenged schools were identified, with scores below 70. 561 of these schools received no substantial assistance to improve academic performance. Academically challenged schools were found in all but eight counties across Pennsylvania, in remote counties, suburban counties, and large cities. 310,000 students did not receive the extra support they needed to succeed academically.

  2. For 16 years (since 1999), the PDE and State Board of Education — which is responsible for setting statewide education policy — failed to develop and implement a statutorily required basic education master plan to be issued every five years. The plan should have been aligned with the ever-changing education landscape, technological advances, requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and the explosion of charter schools. Failure to update this plan means that there is a lack a strategic planning document to guide policy makers and educators to address today’s failing educational system. Pennsylvancia has the largest state board of education in the country, and yet they still haven’t fulfilled their main statutory requirement for 16 years.

  3. • PDE failed to monitor special advisors and assistants. Auditors found that PDE failed to monitor the employment and work of special assistants and advisors, including a special advisor for higher education. For several months PDE accepted no responsibility for monitoring a special advisor for higher education who was receiving $140,000 a year salary. Despite paying him a cabinet-level salary there is NO evidence of work products or emails, with the exception of a budget memo - which was never used in the final budget presentation.

  4. • PDE relied on retired employees to fill critical positions, which violated the state employees’ retirement code. PDE rehired 38 retired employees, which cost PDE approximately $1.4 million.

DePasquale, the PA Auditor General, said, “All the students in these schools have fundamental rights to a fair and effective educational system secured by our state constitution, one that gives them hope and tools for successful and productive lives. We must do better to ensure these schools improve. “PDE and the Board of Education must get their respective houses in order.” “Solving these problems also will take strong commitments by the governor and the General Assembly to make sure the Department of Education and our schools have the adequate academic and financial support to provide a solid foundation for student success. Failing to act will have devastating consequences for students and Pennsylvania’s economy.”

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