2002-11-02 / Editorial/Opinion

A Vestigial Organ From A Body That No Longer Exists

A Vestigial Organ From A Body That No Longer Exists

Every one of the city’s major departments, including NYPD, FDNY and the Department of Education, have been asked to cut a percentage of its budget to meet the expected tremendous shortfall in the city’s budget for the coming year. For any number of reasons, the Department of Education should make their "nut" by cutting the 32 district offices. First of all, the district offices were originally set up to be coterminous with the local school boards. Those boards will be disbanded at the end of June under the new governance rule. The district offices then become unnecessary, a vestigial organ from a body that no longer exists. Secondly, the district offices are massively expensive. In our district, for example, we have a superintendent who earns more than $100 thousand each year. We have two deputy superintendents who earn nearly as much. We have an executive assistant to the superintendent, a deputy assistant for special education (DASE), more than two dozen coordinators (or whatever they are now called) who supervise subject areas, Reading, Mathematics, bilingual, English As A Second Language, attendance, physical education, etc., etc. The building that houses the district office costs the taxpayers more than $600 thousand a year. We can not be sure of the exact figures, because the information is not generally available and Freedom Of Information requests are often time-consuming and expensive, but we would guess from our experience that when we add the clerical help, supplies, utilities and the like to the mix, each district office costs the system somewhere in the range of $3.5 million. Multiply that number by the 32 districts, and you can see that those districts cost the system considerably more than a billion dollars. Not exactly chump change. The argument will be, of course, that the district offices are necessary for the schools to run smoothly. That argument is disingenuous at best. For example, each district has a DASE. The system would, in our opinion, work as well if there was one DASE for Queens with two or three assistants to address the needs of individual schools. The same is true of most of the district infrastructure. The High School Division now runs with that sort of system. Granted, it has far fewer schools to run, but those schools are larger and more difficult and still the system works most of the time. If cuts must be made, then the district offices are the place to look and a zero based solution is what is needed.

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