Sunday, June 10, 2007

Salaries at Tweed continue to grow

There’s an article in the NY Post today, showing a big jump in the number of city employees making $150,000 or more in 2006:

The increase was led by the Department of Education, which saw its number of $150,000 earners more than double in 2006, to 229 from 97. Among these high-pay employees at DOE were new hires James Liebman, formerly a lawyer for the NAACP [actually a Columbia law professor], who earned $188,304 as the head of DOE's accountability office, and Santiago Taveras, a longtime DOE employee who earned $155,174 working with Liebman on school reviews.

Here’s a quote from me: "We've heard about many restructurings, but after each one it seems the number of high-paid executives down at Tweed [school headquarters] has mushroomed. I haven't seen any money redirected into schools."

It’s true that through all the various reorganizations, the only constant is that the number of high-priced employees at Tweed – and exorbitantly paid consultants – continues to grow. At the same time, we’ve seen little or no improvements in terms of added resources to the classroom or reduced class size.

As of 2005, six DOE employees were making as much or more than any Deputy Mayor, and twenty were making more than Police Commissioner Kelly. And of course, there are the seven Alvarez and Marsal consultants, each receiving more than $1 million – plus expenses.

In the NY Post article, Tweed claims that "DOE in 2006 cut $230 million from its administrative budget and redirected it toward the schools. We're getting an exceptional return on taxpayer dollars.

Each year, it seems, the DOE makes this same assertion; with little or no evidence to back it up.

In 2004, the DOE claimed to have cut $200 million from administration and transferred it to schools, yet no one, including the City Comptroller and the Independent Budget Office, could confirm this.

Here are the conclusions of the IBO: “….changes to DOE’s internal budget structure make it difficult to fully assess whether the department has attained the savings it claimed….It is even more difficult to determine whether the savings were shifted to the classroom as claimed by the Chancellor and the Mayor."

In February of 2005, the City Comptroller released a letter challenging the validity of these cuts, and reporting that instead, the head count at Tweed had increased, and that our schools had suffered a net loss of over 2,000 teachers in two years, with no improvement in the teacher-student ratio.

Comptroller Thompson added that “DOE fiscal reporting practices have become markedly less transparent since the Department's restructuring. …DOE has misapplied certain units of appropriation to report expenditures, commencing with FY 2004, in a way that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to track its use of public funds."

An analysis by the Educational Priorities Panel found that rather than reducing the bureaucracy, DOE had made huge cuts to special education services, and that the percentage of spending devoted to instruction had steadily declined.

The Post article shows that the between 2005-6, the number of DOE top executives making more than $150,000 more than doubled, compared to an increase of only 4% in high-salaried employees at the Police Department. And guess what? Next year, spending for Tweed staff is projected to grow another 12%.

I predict that the increases will be even larger – with all the new positions at the Accountability office, including at least twenty new “Senior Achievement Facilitators” to analyze the huge amount of test score data spewed by ARIS, each of whom will make $139,304 - $158,602.

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