HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — For decades the auditor general has looked at the books of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts but it recently announced it will no longer do so. What does that mean and who’s now watching your money?
It was announced via press release. The state’s auditor general will stop auditing school districts effective next month. “We actually have no legal mandate to audit school districts,” AG Spokeswoman, April Hutcheson said.
Don’t have to and can no longer afford to, the statement said. Budget cuts have trimmed AG staff and the compliance audits are less about the money trail and more about paperwork.
“Are teachers certified? Are bus drivers certified? Has the school district been counting the right number of students to submit to the state to get reimbursed for transportation costs?” Hutcheson asked.
The auditor general is so overwhelmed it was only getting to each school every seven years. It used to be every three. “So if you have a kid in middle school, by the time they graduate high school and are in college we’ll be able to tell you whether their teachers were properly certified,” Hutcheson said.
“Relinquishing that bureau and those responsibilities is concerning,” Andrew Armagost of the Pa. Association of School Business Officials said. The association along with the statewide teacher’s union have both expressed reservations.
“That is the only state-level, organized audit that is occurring in our school district looking at this funding and making sure it’s being spent appropriately,” Pa. State Education Association Spokesman, Chris Lillienthal said.
The Department of Education isn’t commenting. Many worry PDE is understaffed and underqualified to perform such audits, which the AG’s office has done for decades. “We’ve had a state and general assembly that has tried to cut back in terms of funding of state bureaucracies and this is what happens when you do that,” Armagost said.
Tim DeFoor is just the second Republican auditor general in the past 60 years, is eliminating school audits a part of his political philosophy? “It has nothing to do with a party-line but managing an agency effectively, efficiently, and in the best interest of taxpayers,” Hutcheson said. “Unfortunately, just not a function we can perform anymore that serves taxpayers so we need to make this move.”
The auditor general’s office is currently auditing 12 school districts and checking their surpluses to see if they’re appropriate. When it comes to auditing, the books at Pennsylvania schools that’s up to each and every district to hire an independent auditor and post numbers on their website but the state’s auditor general has typically kept an eye on things.