Auditor General DePasquale Says Soaring Travel Costs, Lax Accountability Leaving Pittsburgh Schools Vulnerable to Waste

Review of travel, contract documents ongoing
August 28 2019
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Auditor General DePasquale Says Soaring Travel Costs, Lax Accountability Leaving Pittsburgh Schools Vulnerable to Waste

Review of travel, contract documents ongoing

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HARRISBURG (Aug. 28, 2019) – Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today said his initial review shows Pittsburgh Public Schools’ travel costs have nearly tripled in three years but there is little justification for how students have benefited from it.

“In addition to keeping travel expenses to a minimum, every single trip must be carefully reviewed to ensure that it actually improves the quality of classroom learning,” DePasquale said. “I’m not at all convinced that is currently taking place.”

DePasquale’s initial observations include:

  • The district’s annual travel budget increased 179 percent over three years, from $162,258 in 2016 to $453,231 in 2019. That means on average $24,250 extra every month is spent on travel rather than classroom education — enough to purchase 600 iPads for students annually.
  • Superintendent Anthony Hamlet and Assistant Superintendent Anthony Anderson travel out-of-state almost monthly. Combined, they have traveled out-of-state at taxpayer expense 21 times in the last calendar year, usually by air. Destinations in the last year included: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Nashville, and Washington, D.C.

“I understand the need for some travel related to professional development, but there must be greater accountability and justification for travel,” DePasquale said. “District policies – such as requiring most staff to submit a post-trip justification report – are not being uniformly enforced.”

DePasquale has sent three letters to Pittsburgh Public Schools since May requesting documentation of travel expenses and technology-education contracts.  

Missing from the district’s responses are many of the forms required to justify each trip and conference that staff and administrators attend, including a trip that six employees took to Florida and Cuba in April 2019. Taxpayers paid for the airfare to Florida but a former district vendor reportedly covered other costs.

“The Cuba trip is what first caught my attention and no one has been able to provide written justification of how it benefited the district’s students,” DePasquale said. “Without it, how does the public know whether their school district is spending tax dollars wisely?”

DePasquale continues to review PPS documents regarding technology-education contracts and will discuss those at a later time.

Learn more about the Department of the Auditor General online at www.PaAuditor.gov.  

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