Beth Fertig is WNYC’s Contributing Editor for Education. She previously covered politics, which included City Hall during the Giuliani administration, and the U.S. Senate campaigns of Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. She also covered transportation and infrastructure.
Schools Will Get to Keep Unspent Funds -- If They Have Good Marks
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
In a reversal of a much criticized policy, city principals will now get to keep more of their money — but only if their schools get good marks.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the city will no longer require principals to give back 30 percent of any unspent funds and will allow them to carry over the extra funds if their schools get A's, B's or C's on their annual progress reports, which measure student achievement on state exams.
"One thing I don't want to have happen is for schools who are D or F not to use their money, and have money to roll over if they haven't used their money properly," Walcott said.
But Walcott said these low-scoring schools will be able to ask the Department of Education to reconsider on a case-by-case basis. And there's a per-pupil limit for how much money the schools can keep.
Principals were infuriated this year when they were asked to give back 50 percent of their unspent funds to the department.
Many principals sock away thousands of dollars to cushion them against budget cuts in the following year.
After an outcry, former chancellor Cathie Black required them to give back 30 percent of leftover funds instead of half. But some principals went on a spending spree, buying computers and other supplies to make the most out of their money and avoid giving it back to the city.
A Department of Education spokeswoman said unspent funds from the 2010-2011 school year added up to $9 million for the agency.
Edward Tom, principal of the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics High School, said that amount is not a lot for a school system with an annual budget of more than $20 billion. He wrote a letter to the chancellor urging him to restore all the money to schools this fall.
Meanwhile, Walcott said it's too soon to tell where this year's cutbacks will come from as principals reduce their new budgets by an average of 2.4 percent. They also have the option of laying off staffers who are not involved in teaching.
The city's new budget averted teacher layoffs, but 1,000 other city employees in various agencies are expected to lose their jobs.