Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tweedle Dumb

In this morning's NY Daily News, Juan Gonzales highlights the out-of-control growth down at the city's DOE. It appears that the number of jobs and the salaries commensurate with those jobs are rising at a much faster rate than the school kids test scores: "Many teachers and parents want to know why Schools Chancellor Joel Klein keeps padding his central office payroll with high-paid bureaucrats when the school system faces $185 million in new budget cuts.
The head count at the Department of Education's Tweed Courthouse headquarters has increased by nearly 400 between October 2004 and last April - a jump of more than 18% in less than four years, the agency's budget documents show."

What's important here, is just how much this bureaucratization is inconsistent with a robust school governance-in fact, it hearkens back to the misrule characteristic of 110 Livingston Street. As Gonzales points out, the ledger of job titles reads like it was taken whole from the observations of Orwell in 1984:

"Among the new Tweed openings - some of them with Orwellian titles - found on the DOE Web site this week (along with their potential top salary), were:

- Knowledge Management Domain Leader for Leadership & Organizational Management ($170,000).
- Knowledge Management Domain Leader for Mathematics and Science ($170,000).
- Senior Achievement Facilitator ($170,000).
- Director of School Quality ($170,000).
- Executive Director, Office of Arts and Special Projects ($188,000).
Who says public schools don't pay?"

One of the biggest criticisms of the entire Tweed operation, seen most recently in the Gotbaum report, is the lack of transparency; so it's a bit amusing to find just where the biggest job gains have been found: "The biggest number of new openings was in the Office of Accountability. That's the department that supervises all the new testing and school assessment programs that have become the hallmark of Bloomberg's educational reform program."

Following Machiavelli's maxim that it's better to appear good than to be good, the Tweeders, gearing up for a massive PR campaign to maintain mayoral control of the schools, are concentrating on recruiting an army of spinners to sell a gullible public on the system's great accomplishments.

Making matters worse, given the fact that parents have been complaining about the lack of access, is where jobs have been lost: "DOE spokesman David Cantor denied there's been a runaway growth in total administrative jobs. He confirmed that there had been large increases in the accountability office and in the legal department. Cantor said the job increases at Tweed have been mostly offset by cuts in administrative jobs at regional and field offices throughout the city, so the total management head count has only "grown slightly since 2004."

All in all, a system of governance crying out for over sight and control; something that the city's legislative body has yet to do effectively. The back to the future centralization is captured in the following critique: "They're centralizing the entire bureaucracy, adding all these jobs that don't make any sense to anyone," said Leonie Haimson, director of Class Size Matters, an educational advocacy group. "They're growing like a cancer on the school system." Are you listening Shelly?