The truth about the school budget for PHS
By Amadou Bah, Faran Nadeem, Justice Rice & Sartre Ndebaneza
If you visit Patterson High School, you are most likely to experience the change of climate when you are inside of classrooms. Besides the lack of air conditioning and adequate heating in the building, Patterson still uses computers with Windows 7 and some those computers are out of use. If you enter the computer labs, the first thing you see is keyboards with missing keys detached from their CPU. When the weather changes, everyone feels it. With all these problems that go unfixed, many students are asking, “Where does the school’s money go?”
We went to North Ave. to talk to John Walker, the Chief Financial Officer of Baltimore City Public Schools, about Patterson High School’s budget and what is the money based on. He gave us a book and explained how enrollment, funding, etc. works. We had a better understanding of what he meant about how all schools have the same progress with money being funded based off of student enrollment.
The Patterson Press reporters Amadou Bah and Sartre Ndebaneza interviewed Patterson’s business manager, Mr. Dwayne Adams, about how much money Patterson High School gets and what the school spends it on. Patterson High School’s budget for the 2016-2017 school year is 8.2 million dollars. The 8.2 millions dollars is based on Patterson High School student enrollment for 2016-2017. The state of Maryland is dealing with its own $544 million budget gap, and both state and city officials suggested that the school district will have to make tough decisions. According to The Baltimore Sun, the city lost roughly $42 million in state-given money this year, in part due to its worsening enrollment. Enrollment stands at about 82,000 students. Next school year, PHS will receive less money due to the $130 million budget gap. The school also receives donations and grants. According to Mr. Adams, 75% of all budgetary resources Patterson High School receives goes to teachers and other staff members. This includes salaries of substitute teachers. When The Patterson Press questioned Adams on where the other 25% of the money went, he replied, “It’s not a particular department that consumes the majority of the main funding. It’s called OTPS, so you have the salaries, and then you have OTPS, which stands for other than personal salaries, so that remaining–and this is just an estimate–25% of the budget is done by comprehensive review on what was spent.” Adams added, “We have some standing contracts that we know we have to carry every year, so we set a priority on spending. So the contracts we renew every year are included in the spending, and then we have to have a majority of it go to supplies and materials because teachers need these things for instruction purposes. We also have audio visual and computer related, so we can have technology within the building to keep us in the twenty-first century. Everything is more and more technical than the traditional sit-down-with-a-book type of instruction. Those three areas are safe where the money is spent.”
We wanted to get a better understanding of Adams’ explanation about the 25 percent of the school budget that remains after paying staff members’ salaries (the part of the budget known as OTPS), which is roughly 2 million dollars each year. After doing some research and interviewing several staff members, we have found that the most expensive materials the school has that are expected to be purchased from school budget are computers. According to Ms. ClaireAgnes Doerrman, the school librarian, there are more than one thousand computers in the whole building. Ms. Doerrman also told The Patterson Press, “Since I came here two years ago, I saw only three brand new carts of computers.” All the carts combined had 90 computers. This statement calls into doubt Adam’s statement of Patterson annually spending a large percent of its budget on new computer technology.
The Patterson Press also interviewed Mr. Vance Benton, Principal of Patterson High School. According to Mr. Benton, “Since I was here, for six years, we only bought five to six laptop carts.” We also spoke to another trusted staff member who asked not to be identified. According to our source, “All the computers in the building are old. Most of them were donated, most of them are used computers from another school, totaling around 800 computers.” This staff member insists that this is not standard practice in Baltimore City. “Other schools receive, or if not buy, new computers every year to keep up to date, due to technology being upgraded and improved,” our source informed us. This proves that Patterson High School doesn’t really spend much money on the computers, but this kept us wondering what is the money is really being spent on.
We also wondered about other sources of money outside the official school budget. So we confronted Mr. Benton with some follow-up questions about where does the money from the vending machine, student IDs, and the school store goes. Mr. Benton stated that all vending machine money goes to the company that owns the vending machine; he’s not in charge of that money. As for the ID money, most of it goes toward field trip buses and to ink and other small supplies that are needed to make the student IDs. School store money goes back to the school store. It’s a cycle: money from the budget is used to boost the school store, but sometimes the school store’s money helps out with small expenses, such as paying for field trip buses.
In conclusion, we don’t get enough money, but instead the CTE and ESOL departments have their own way of getting money by applying for grants, donations, etc. Mr. Benton is pretty smart for not spending money on new computers due to the plans to construct a new school building next year. He stated that he is saving money because this school will be rebuilt and the new school will have new computers that are up-to-date.