HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – He is the state’s fiscal watchdog and Tuesday he took a bite out of Pennsylvania’s Department of Education.
After one of the most thorough audits of PDE ever performed, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale had numerous complaints about its governance over the past several years.
He presented a list of 561 schools across the state that the department identified as academically struggling. They are rural, suburban and urban and, according to DePasquale, they are neglected by the state agency charged with their oversight.
“To sit there and say, ‘OK that’s bad’ and then do nothing, to me is a dereliction of duty,” DePasquale said during a Capitol news conference to release the findings of the audit.
Also troubling was the fact that a master education plan has not been updated by the department since 1999. DePasquale called it a rudderless ship.
How should taxpayers feel about the findings?
“Certainly, they should be frustrated, angry, ticked off, whatever phrase you want to use, but at the end of the day something needs to be done about this,” DePasquale said.
The audit also mentioned the case of Ron Tomalis without actually using his name. He’s the former education secretary and Camp Hill native who hung around as a special advisor to Governor Corbett. There were questions about what exactly Tomalis was doing to earn his $140,000 a year salary.
ABC 27 asked then-boss Carolyn Dumaresq about Tomalis last year.
“I’ve got him working,” then Secretary Dumaresq said with a chuckle. “That’s a lot of money and he should be working for that money.”
But the audit found nothing to show for Tomalis’ efforts. DePasquale calls it a waste of $140,000 in taxpayer money.
“Maybe he went to work and sat in his chair all day. I don’t know about you, but I would be bored out of my mind with that type of day,” DePasquale said.
Dumaresq refused comment when reached by phone Tuesday, other than to wish current Education Secretary Pedro Rivera well.
The audit release comes just as Governor Wolf is seeking more money for schools. Representative Stan Saylor (R-York) chairs the House Education Committee and says he’s not surprised by DePasquale’s findings.
“That’s what the taxpayers are saying to us,” Saylor said. “Why are we not having accountability with the dollars we are already spending? They want accountability before you can justify an increase in taxes.”
DePasquale, a Democrat, says schools probably do need more money, but quickly adds the money needs more oversight.
“PDE has to earn the trust of the people watching this,” he said. “They have to earn it.”
The auditor general also complained about the lack of cooperation by the previous leaders at the Department of Education, but noted that has improved under Rivera.
DePasquale previously raised concerns about the oversight of employees at the state’s intermediate units, specifically the Capital Area Intermediate Unit. He softened that assertion Tuesday, saying the workers were “highly qualified and doing a good job.”
The audit made dozens of recommendations on how to improve the troublesome areas. DePasquale said for the sake of the kids he hopes PDE will implement the changes.