Audit of Philadelphia Schools Finds Background Check Irregularities

(Photo: Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette)

(Photo: Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette)

An audit of the Philadelphia School District has uncovered several issues, including missing textbooks, incomplete background checks, and mismanagement of student data.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale added that his review of the district found that 21 of the 49 bus drivers, or 43%, hired by the district had not met at least one employment requirement such as a state or federal criminal background check or a child-abuse clearance.

“Even more alarming . . . is the fact that we found two of those 49 bus drivers have preemployment convictions that should have precluded them from ever coming into contact with children,” he said.

Convictions included assault, arson, and drug possession.  However, he went on to say that the district did remove the drivers from their positions once their history had been discovered.

In all, there are 1,100 bus drivers in the district.  All drivers are employed either by the district itself or its contractors, and all of them are required to pass background checks.  The district said all drivers would have these checks completed by the end of June.

Similar results were found among the police force hired by the district, with results finding 16 officers out of 33, or 48%, having deficiencies in their background checks.

“School police officers, especially those in a district the size of this district, we believe must be properly qualified with the enormous responsibility that they have,” DePasquale said.

The district said the each of its 340 police officers would be properly screened by the end of June.

The report went on to say that discrepancies existed among student attendance reports resulting from the use of outdated technology. DePasquale said that without the proper data, the district may not receive the proper reimbursement from the state.  However, he did note that the district is moving toward an electronic attendance system.

The audit also discussed the disappearance of textbooks, library books, and educational materials from schools that had been shut down in 2013, reports Mike DeNardo for CBS Philly.  These items had apparently been shipped to district headquarters on North Broad Street and to Bok Technical High School in South Philadelphia, which had closed.

Because an automated inventory system did not exist in the district, the materials were not kept track of accurately.

According to DePasquale, the district will have a very difficult time turning its financial situation around without a change to education funding being made by both the city and the state, as the district looks to an increase in costs for things beyond their control, including charter schools and pensions, while at the same time being unable to raise taxes to increase revenue.

“Many, but not all, of the financial issues are beyond the district’s ability to resolve on its own,” he said. “What’s needed is an all-hands-on-deck commitment from local, state, and federal leaders to work with the district to develop solutions to address its financial challenges.”

The audit, which was performed to determine whether taxpayer funds were being used appropriately, covered the district from 2008 to 2014.