Why Big-City School Systems Are Going Broke

Mar 21, 2016 by

Pension plans could be the culprit behind broke big-city school districts.

Last week, in Flint, Michigan, Democratic presidential candidates were asked what they’d do to turn around financially flailing and academically failing school systems, like that of nearby Detroit.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders blamed congressional inaction and front-runner Hillary Clinton said she would create a “SWAT team” at the Department of Education and reinstate a federal program to assist states and districts with funding to repair and modernize schools.

The list of big-city school districts around the country that are broke or well on their way to being in the red is growing. But the real reasons behind their dire financial straits weren’t mentioned by either candidate.

Detroit’s school system, already $515 million in debt, can’t afford to pay its staff past April 8. In Chicago, the city school district – the third-largest in the country – is a whopping $1.1 billion in debt. Already laying off staff and imposing unpaid furlough days, it most recently told principals to stop spending money altogether.

In Philadelphia, despite the school system there ending the year with an $88 million surplus, the city has backed a lawsuit against the state by other school districts over inadequate funding, citing its own inability to maintain buildings and struggles to employ teachers and school nurses. More than 2,000 public school students in Boston also walked out of their classrooms earlier this month in opposition to proposed budget cuts.

While the financial woes are a result of a confluence of circumstances, analysts say one culprit stands above the rest.

Source: Why Big-City School Systems Are Going Broke – US News

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