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The Central Office (III): A Source of Money for the Classroom?

On examination, the first argument for mowing down the bureaucracy isn't all that powerful. The central office does not deliberately interfere with school improvement policies as an independent actor, and the individuals who do could be removed if district leaders made following procedures to do so a priority.

The second argument, that the central office draws more funds than are required for its activities, and cuts to its budget will go to the classroom, is equally marginal.

Money for the Classroom. If the central office can do its job with fewer people, any humane superintendent should see that the staff is downsized through attrition and reassignment. Still, as a general rule, downsizing does not increase the amount of money available to the classroom. Typically, districts are compelled to make central office cuts because the budget is already out of balance. Classrooms may see a greater percentage of the budget when the central office is cut, but not more money.

In the District of Columbia, Mayor Fenty is asking the city council for an additional 75 million in spending for the schools - after turn-around advisors Alvarez and Marsal found 74 million in potential savings across the system.

See also: Philadelphia; Florida; school districts; Greenville, South Carolina; and Flagstaff, Arizona

Bottom line. Streamlining the central office makes sense, but more often than not central office cuts leave a bureaucracy with the same responsibilities and fewer people, and offers the superintendent a temporary respite from ongoing pressures to reduce classroom expenditures.

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