2011-06-10 / Editorial/Opinion

Cut Technology, Consultants, Not Teachers

Two City Council members, Speaker Christine Quinn and Finance Chair Domenic Recchia, recently took a long and detailed look at the mayor’s budget proposal that would cut thousands of teachers from the city payroll for the next school year. Staff members for the two legislators went over the school budget line by line and item by item and came up with $75 million that could be cut without losing one teacher. The mayor and his hand-picked chancellor should listen to what they are saying, but so far all that has come from Tweed Courthouse is that the Council proposals are not doable. Take a look at some of the proposals, and you will see that they are indeed doable and certainly better than cutting classroom positions. The first, for example, would cut $4 million simply by retraining existing staff to teach in critical areas such as special education and bilingual programs rather than spending the $8 million in the budget to recruit non-licensed non-traditional people to teach those areas. At present, the Department of Education pays 13 staffers to work in its press office, far more than any other city agency. Reducing the staff by even three people would save nearly $300,000 and would have no negative impact on classroom instruction. There are currently 60 network teams with 12 to 14 employees in each team and six clusters in each team, each cluster with five employees. There are 40 superintendents, each earning nearly $200,000 a year. At present, the district superintendents are a political fiction, with little to do and absolutely no power under mayoral control. They are in place only because an archaic state law says they have to be there, yet they cost tens of millions of dollars. Technology consultants now cost the city nearly $71 million dollars. Recent scandals show that many of the consultants are ripping off the city and that the work could be done in-house by employees of the DOE far cheaper and far better. The great chunk of technology money now budgeted by the DOE is for testing and for tracking both student and teacher information. It would be better spent in the classroom for instruction and support. The list goes on and on. The city’s aim should be to cut every out-of-the-classroom program before one teacher line is cut.

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