This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Tuesday, October 9th.
Another day, another large urban school system shown to be throwing away millions and millions of dollars, while crying poverty.
Dateline Baltimore, Maryland, where an independent audit of the school system was ordered by the research arm of the Maryland state legislature. The independent auditors found $2.8 million were paid in overtime even though there were no records or supervisor approval for most of the alleged overtime hours. 1,400 computers bought by the district could not be located.
Marta Mossberg of the Maryland Public Policy Institute told me the school system does not have the incentives to spend their money wisely.
"It shows a complete lack of oversight. It's a situation where you have people who don't care about money because it's not their money, and so they're not held accountable. That's why you see this happen over and over and over again. It's not just the 1,400 computers; it's the fact that so many people were paid for time that they didn't work, and all sorts of other issues. Because it's just the way the system operates. When there isn't an incentive to save money, you know no one's going to do it."
The district paid employees for unused sick days, which is generally legal, except for the fact that this $10 million expense for one year, included lots of fudging the numbers. For examples just four employees in particular were paid for 201 more unused vacation days than the number to which they were legally entitled.
Auditors even found the district paid $6.9 million on a contract for special ed instruction even though that contract had expired back in 2008.
"You have a situation in Baltimore city where there's not enough money for anything. This summer there was a new bottle tax that was passed, because they said there was not enough money to pay for all the crumbling school infrastructure. And so you see all this happening at a time when the city is broke. The state is broke; it has about a billion dollar deficit or more going out for years. And yet they're able to find millions of dollars to pay extra overtime that wasn't worked.
"I think that creates a lot of cynicism within the public because it's kind of like, 'We don't get this; we're never going to get it.' And yet government workers live in this alternative universe and play by much different rules than the rest of the people in Maryland."
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