DOE Budgets/ Parasites, Balanced Literacy, etc

Jul 2, 2014 by

New Yorkers should get the best public school system that money can buy. Everyone believes that but only some clueless but well-intentioned critics think it’s a simple matter of purchase power.

There are kinds of improvement that money alone cannot buy. In some instances, it’s not a matter of money at all. It all depends on what the money is spent on. Lowering class size is an example of an investment that is sure to deliver dividends in the classroom.
The public is rightly shocked when they see the City’s Department of Education mega-gigantic budget, and indignant when they factor in the number of teachers and students and calculate, what they assume is a straightforward equation, the amount that taxpayers spend to educate each student.
They conclude that they’re not getting full value for money and that teachers are overpaid and students undereducated.

The problem is that for such a computation to be valid, it must be based on numerous additional elements, none of which teachers have any control over and most of which the general public is unaware of.

Only a small percentage of the DOE’s budget is spent on actually delivering instructional services to children, either directly or indirectly.Fair enough, the bureaucracy must foot the bill for many ancillary costs.

But much, maybe most of the budget goes to pay or pay off an encyclopedic array of parasites, both embedded within the system and  outside it. Large numbers dig their nails in the throat of the Tweed.  Lawyers, MBAs, consultants of every stripe, professional development marketers, and an endless list of retired and re-hired supervisors and administrators, sporting a thousand empty titles replete with ten-thousand responsibilities of illusory usefulness, all of whom blissfully lap up their due gravy from the trough of the DOE treasury.

Chancellor Farina must reapportion assets and devote them to front-line education. There are rumblings of her perhaps reviving the infamous “Balanced Literacy” cult of fascist pedagogy that plagued and besmirched classrooms around a decade ago. That would be a leap backward into the arms of the ghost of Joel Klein.

But Farina has a knack for seeing the big picture and appreciating its fine details. She is keen to re-set the DOE on a secure path to progress without any “ism.” She recently said that her greatest challenge is trying as much as possible to accomplish all her ambitious plans at once and that they be fruitful.

She cannot change the DOE culture overnight.  But despite occasional rumblings which have the potential to become ominous, she has proven over many years the stature to do the right things for the right reasons.

And for that let us pat her on the back, even as we sigh with concern.

Ron Isaac


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