Don't Punish Principals for Doing More With Less

It goes without saying that school officials are doing everything in their power to cope with the quickly dwindling budgets of their districts. But a certain policy enacted by the New York City DOE leaves me scratching my head. The policy in question forces principals who have lived within their means to give back 30 percent of any school-budget surplus to the general coffers of the DOE at the end of the year.

The old system allowed principals to save money for future years; last year a total of $80 million was rolled over. Not surprisingly, this penny-pinching policy is having an inverse effect on school spending. Since enacting the policy, only $32 million was carried over. As the New York Post reported on Sunday, principals are now deciding in favor of year-end shopping sprees rather than forking over a percentage of their savings. Midwood High School's principal just went on a $400,000 bender, picking up high-tech digital pens, four iPads, a $40,000 science lab and a high-powered electron microscope.

We have long been proclaiming the importance of ?doing more with less,' and this policy couldn't be driving principals farther from it. Instead of punishing fiscally conservative principals hoping to use surpluses to prevent a teacher from being laid off or continue to staff after-school programs the next year, the NYCDOE might consider finding their extra funding from the budgets of principals spending recklessly, not responsibly.

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