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Chancellor Levy Finds Bloat

8/21/01

    It will be interesting to watch the reaction to New York City School Chancellor Harold Levy’s proposal to eliminate hundreds of administrative jobs from the central offices of the New York City Public Schools. Levy, a businessman by training and experience, not an "educator",  has invested a great deal of time and effort in a study of the management structure of the city district. It will come as no surprise to anyone even marginally familiar with public schools that he has concluded that the management structure is bloated and unproductive. He has additionally concluded that there is an urgent need to abolish many of these central office positions and devolve more authority to local schools, placing scarce resources where they can potentially make a difference - where the children are.

    This will surely be a radical idea in New York City as it is in almost every school district in the country. Boards of education in the United States, charmed and bamboozled by their central office staffs, have historically been loath to scrutinize administrative staffing. The administrators are, after all, the representatives of the school district they know best. The same boards, however, will hire teachers by the tenth of a position and allow class sizes to be unnecessarily high and numbers of teachers to be deprived of full employment and benefits. In our own Plainview-Old Bethpage, our union has repeatedly shown how the district could easily save a million dollars by cutting totally unnecessary middle management positions and using this personnel to reduce class size.

    I strongly suspect Chancellor Levy will fail in his attempt to streamline the New York City's central administration. Powerful political forces will be arrayed against him. His hand would be strengthened by a proposed piece of legislation that the PCT hopes to have introduced in the next session of the legislature. This bill would reward school districts with increased state aid if they significantly reduce their administrative tables of organization and use the savings to reduce class size. Such a law would give the chancellor and the students in our schools a fighting chance.

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