Saturday, December 28, 2013
It's Time To Eliminate The Bureaucratic Bloat At The DOE.
As the new year begins we have a new Mayor and Chancellor and while there are many priorities they must address. A new long-term contract, the ATR pool, revising the teacher evaluation system, and the elimination of the (un)fair student funding fiasco Once these issues are resolved, it's time for the new administration to address the bureaucratic bloat at Tweed and free up billions of dollars that can be used for educator raises and classroom resources. The question is where can the new administration cut the DOE bloat? Here are my ideas.
Consultants and Contracts:
According to the latest Comptroller report, the DOE has an astonishing $17.23 billion dollars of active contracts. Some of these contracts like busing and food services are necessary but many others have no school or classroom applications and are attached to high-priced consulting services which can be eliminated. If the de Blasio administration reduced the contracting budget by just 10%, it would free up $1.7 billion dollars. A 20% reduction would free up $3.45 billion dollars annually.
The latest number I saw showed that the DOE spent almost $1 billion dollars on technology. Yet, school after school has inadequate broadband which to accommodate it and much of the technology is data driven (ARIS) and time consuming (SESIS). This area is another case of overspending with little application to the classroom. Therefore, some reductions are due. How about reductions of 25% or more that can free up another 250 million dollars annually.
While the New York City Public School System has shown a reduction of 8,000 teachers (80,000 to 72,000) and a rising class size as more students enter the school system, the headcount at the Central Bureaucracy just increases. Tweed claims that they reduce their headcount but in reality they simply play a "shell game" by forcing schools and field offices to take on headcount that are really from the Central Bureaucracy. While it is difficult to ascertain the actual numbers because Tweed lacks transparency, there is no question that there has been an increase in non-educators in the DOE. The last numbers I saw showed that there was a 70% increase in headcount at the Central Bureaucracy since 2003. In City Council testimony during October 2012, Michael Mulgrew stated how a Deputy Chancellor bragged about how there was a decrease of 32% to school support services since 2006. Where did the savings go? Not to the schools. Instead it went to hire more consultants, managers and lawyers at Tweed, that's where. While I have no idea how much can be saved by streamlining and eliminating the redundant and useless bloat at Tweed, I suspect that $1 billion dollars would be a conservative figure for annual savings.
Children First Networks:
The near useless Children First Networks (CFNs) cost millions of dollars and each school must "kick back" a teacher's salary to pay for basic coverage and even more if additional services are needed. While the elimination of these useless layers of Bureaucracy is necessary, a side benefit will be that the absorption of the CFNs back into the District Superintendent's Office will save millions of dollars.
Eliminating The ATR Pool:
The ATR pool of over 2,000 excessed educators cost the DOE $160 million dollars annually. The new administration should declare an immediate hiring freeze and allow no exceptions. This would require principals to hire the ATRs and principals who refuse, would have their vacancy defunded as a penalty.
Limiting and Elimination Of Outside Service Providers At Schools:
Too many schools pay precious funds to these groups while guidance counselors and social workers go weekly in a useless ATR rotation. This must stop and maybe the school system can save some money in the process.
CFE Funds To Reduce Class Size:
The CFE funds should not be given to school principals but be used to open up more classes and hire more teachers to reduce class size. Tweed allows the principals to use the money as they please. Too many principals use it for other uses or to fill gaps in their operating budget, some of the uses are very questionable to say the least. The result is an unacceptable increase in class sizes. While this will not save any money, it would be a more efficient use of direct services to students and the classroom.
In conclusion, I believe that a conservative estimate in yearly savings would be close to $3.2 billion dollars and that would easily pay for UFT and CSA retroactive raises (about $3.5 billion dollars and an additional $900 million dollars annually going forward) as well as any new contract, if the retroactive pay is stretched for a three year period. The remaining savings should go to the schools and in particular to reduce class sizes and hire additional teachers to achieve that goal.