Monday, February 4

School budgets slashed; CEO principals not given much say

You must be living under a rock if you haven't heard about the significant school budget cuts that the DOE made last week. In addition to the $324 million that schools will need to cut from their budgets next year, principals were also lost 1.75 percent of this year's budget — before they could even stop to think about where to find the money.

As of early last week, the DOE hadn't actually told principals that they would each have to cut a total of $180 million from their budgets; principals had to learn about the plan from the newspapers. I spoke to a principal on Friday who said she received an email at night informing her that she would have to cut $125,000; when she woke up in the morning, the money was already gone.

While the DOE will be making some cuts centrally, most of the reductions are being passed down to individual schools. The Times reported that the cuts will range from $9,000 to $447,587; for many schools, it's possible that the cuts will undo the Fair Student Funding gains they might have seen earlier this year.

As the mayor suggested earlier this week, Klein told the Times that principals will "have to tighten some programs." He suggested that principals might eliminate after-school activities or Saturday tutoring programs. But even if principals were okay with making those cuts, it looks like the losses might go deeper; Steven Satin, principal at Norman Thomas High School, told the Times that he has to cut the equivalent of "six teachers' salaries for the rest of the term" from his budget. The Daily News reports that schools in Queens have already canceled dance classes, disbanded a class taught by a long-term substitute, and cut tutoring programs. Also on the chopping block centrally: two of the 10 planned citywide standardized tests (NY Times); some ESL teaching positions (NY Times); and the Lead Teacher program (last Monday's PEP meeting).

Principals disagree with the DOE's ideas about what ought to be cut, and they've been circulating emails with sarcastic (and yet eminently reasonable) suggestions for the DOE. From the Times on Friday:

The principals in their e-mail chain of complaints wondered whether their evaluations would take into account constraints because of budget cuts, and also spoke disparagingly of the city’s contracts with I.B.M., which developed the $80 million computer system, and as one principal put it, “a whole host of other private, for-profit corporations that have entered into our world.”
The DOE considers principals the CEOs of their schools, but it sounds like many principals continue to put their students, not the notion of business efficiency, first. Chancellor Klein is testifying at a legislative budget hearing this morning in Albany. For which philosophy will he advocate?

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