Mike Tomlinson, CPA & Candidate for State Representative, 173rd Legislative District
Contact 267-671-8323 Press Release – Opinion and Editorial October 13, 2014
Our Schools Need Accountability
As a candidate for State Representative, former teacher in the Philadelphia School District and having a career as a Certified Public Accountant, I offer the true and honest perspective of the Philadelphia Public School System. Nothing impacts and affects our community more than our Schools. Everything from businesses residing in the City to the ultimate ability of our children to reach their full potential depends on the success of the Public Schools. The City’s bond rating, crime, and young residents making a decision to say or leave our City is heavily dependent on our Schools. Using any measurement, facts or statistics relating to the Philadelphia Public Schools, there is only one assessment that is agreed upon: The Philadelphia Public Schools have failed the children and their parents. I offer the true perspective with solutions and a true success story to support my positions.
The gross negligence and malfeasance of managing our School System is not an issue with teachers and staff in the classroom. It is an issue of waste, fraud, abuse, indoctrinated inefficiency, patronage and a bloated bureaucracy that has failed to give our children a safe, secure and academically rewarding school experience. During the last fifteen years, the Public School student population has dropped from 200,000 to under 150,000 while School funding has continued to increase. We, the people, must demand answers as to how and where, specifically, the money is being spent. We must demand that the City management and the School Reform Commission (SRC) conduct a full review and audit of every dollar spent. The City Charter requires that a full audit be performed, annually, by the City Controller and the audit be verified by an independent CPA. This has not been done in over 10 years. We must ask our elected officials and the SRC: Why?
To support the position of waste and mismanagement, I offer the success story of MaST Charter School (MaST is an acronym for Math and Science Technology). I was invited to tour this amazing school. The school is like walking into a glimpse of twenty-second century technology and education. The facilities are immaculate. The learning process is evident during every step of the tour. Technology is beyond description. The perception and perspective of student satisfaction and learning enjoyment was clearly evident. This is a school that has taken every step of the student’s day and turned it into an uplifting learning experience. This is accomplished by using basic principles of education combined with extremely advanced technology. This is all accomplished with approximately 20 percent less funding per student and even much less funding for special needs students as compared to the Public Schools. I inquired of the President, Mr. John Swoyer: do Charter Schools have an advantage due to the ability to expel difficult students and having a better student profile than the typical Public School? MaST rarely expels a student. And, 40 percent of the student population is at or below the poverty level. This dispels the argument that Charter Schools have the advantage of having “better students”. With approximately 25 percent less funding, MaST achieves a return on its funding much greater than that of a Public School. At a minimum, MaST is achieving 30% more value from its funding than the Philadelphia School District. If the School District achieved the same results with its funding it would save the District and the taxpayer $780 million, per year. This disparity is waste, inefficiency, mismanagement and potentially fraud & corruption which are being paid by the taxpayer. Even if this assessment is off by half we can still save almost $400 million – per year.
To deal with this injustice, I recommend the following solutions: First, allow MaST to expand to other areas of the City. Second, disband the School Reform Commission which was appointed, 13 years ago, by the State to improve the Schools but all we have seen is a gross deterioration and mismanagement of the system. Replace the SRC with a local Board comprised of diverse civic-minded residents, public & charter school teachers, and credible local small and corporate business people. Oversight of the Board will be accomplished by a committee of local elected officials for two year terms. Third, conduct a complete review of school operations and a full audit of where the money is being wasted. This is in compliance with the City Charter and will uncover savings amounting up to $700 million – per year. These basic steps will eliminate the waste, political patronage and corruption of our local and state tax dollars and place control and accountability with the parents and citizens of the school district. This is achievable. This is possible. But instead, our City and State elected officials pass a $2.00 tax on a pack of cigarettes and drive more business over the City line. You should not have to win the Lottery to send your child to a good school.