Pizza Pies and Dollar Signs

I love pizza. Do you love pizza? Oh, what a silly question! Of course you love pizza. Everyone loves pizza! But here’s the big question: Do you love pizza enough to spend $2.6 million on it? Denver Public Schools does.

I ran across an interesting article this morning from Kyle Clark, my favorite 9News reporter, who has apparently discovered that DPS has negotiated an agreement with Blackjack Pizza for $886,730 in the first year. If the pizza “meets expectations” (whatever that means given that there is no such thing as bad pizza, only shades of deliciousness), the agreement could be extended for another two years. That brings the grand total to $2.6 million.

No matter how you slice it (heh), that’s a lot of pizza. But exactly how much pizza $2.6 million buys DPS is a matter of some debate. According to Kyle Clark’s back-of-the-envelope math—math that he admits is possibly hampered by journalists’ famous inability to work with numbers—the $886,730 per year would buy 59,154 extra-large pepperoni pizzas. Over three years, that would 168,462 pies.

But, as Clark points out, one would hope Denver is paying full price for these pizzas. From the article:

 But if DPS is paying full price for that many pies – that would be a scandal of immense proportion.

Call it Pizza-gate.

Mmm… I’d be happy to investigate.

Anyway, the district wasn’t able to immediately tell us how many pizzas it’s getting for taxpayers’ 2.6 mil.

Fair to suppose it’s many more than 59,000, since we know how much kids like pizza, and DPS does have 91,000 mouths to feed.

So, there’s probably nothing untoward here. One hopes that Denver has negotiated an economically sensible pizza purchase plan (alliteration!), and it likely has. And it is probably true that the district is purchasing the pizzas for its lunch programs through some pot of money dedicated for that purpose.

Still, though, something about the idea of a district spending $2.6 million on pizza over three years in the midst of all the handwringing about woefully inadequate funding caught my eye. And I can’t help being reminded of Thompson School District’s recent alleged “need” to spend $500,000 on new doorknobs or Jeffco’s recent decision to build a new school with $25 million in debt instead of $18 million in real money.

It is undoubtedly true that school districts need some amount of money to operate. It is also true that the number of children in our education system necessitates very large sums of money being spent on things like food. But seeing a story about $2.6 million being spent on pizza, even though that expenditure is likely completely legitimate, reminds me that we should be relentlessly pushing for more financial transparency in education. That’s especially true as we enter the time of year when school districts across the state ask taxpayers to open their wallets and pony up additional cash for various projects and needs.

Have a great weekend! I’ll see you back here next week.