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Student-Based Budgeting

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 Budget Brief Cover 2015


Download the report.

Read Carey’s testimony.


Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) is about to adopt a budget that is larger than the City of Pittsburgh’s at $567.95 million. This budget is a statement of PPS priorities. So what do we know?

Our budget brief takes a look at how resources are spent at schools and provides some specific recommendations for changes that we believe will improve student outcomes.

Here’s what Carey had to say to the Board about the budget process:

“A+ Schools has sought for the past several years to understand how PPS is investing its generous state and local support to students. Although we’ve reviewed several years of budgets – district and site based, we still cannot identify a rational explanation of how dollars are being driven out to students and schools, Here is what we have found:

“Approximately 86% of the district budget is spent directly on students; this is a good thing. However, only about half of that is allocated in a way that we can track and that is through site based or school-based budgets. Those budgets include average teacher salaries, principal salaries, some supplies, and small amounts of discretionary dollars for paraprofessionals or other uses.

“The remaining half of funds spent on students gets distributed directly from central administration and is not tracked to the school level or reported on per pupil basis. It includes transportation, facilities and maintenance, school security staff, nurses, and other costs. Consequently, we cannot say which schools have lower transportation or facility costs, or how nurses, security staff, and custodians are allocated and whether or not its equitable or effective.

“This is a big concern for us and should be for you as well. If you can’t know how half of your dollars dedicated to students are being driven out to students or schools, you can’t monitor or adjust policy so that those dollars get to the kids that need them most and in ways that improve their educational success.

“When we look only at the site based budgets, that include Title One funds, we found the following:

“There is not a statistically significant relationship between spending and student income level, meaning that schools with higher percentages of low income students are not necessarily allocated more dollars (see below). This is particularly surprising because Title I resources are distributed based on student need. Our analysis suggests that other factors are negating the effects of Title I investments.”

We recommend the board do the following things to improve their budgeting practices:

1. Improve transparency

2. Establish a fair funding formula at the District level

3. Prioritize student outcomes

4. Provide greater autonomy to principals while holding them accountable for results

If you agree with these recommendations, take action!

Contact the Board at or 412-529-3770 and let them know that you want student-based budgeting for Pittsburgh.