The central offices of the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., school districts are slimming. Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso this week proposed to cut more than 300 central-office jobs, which will allow him to plug a $40 million budget shortfall and reroute another $70 million directly to schools. He also plans to give principals, who now control a mere $90 of the $13,000 spent annually on each of their students, much more monetary discretion. Fifty miles south, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee recently dismissed 98 central-office employees, which sparked yet another eruption of indignation from city council members, district officials, and union leaders. One former employee warned that "when a lot of people are let go from that office it hinders building the infrastructure for the system because you don't have people with historical knowledge." Historical knowledge of what? Of years of corruption, declining academic achievement, and failed reform? Fortunately, the plans of Alonso and Rhee mark real efforts to break with their districts' checkered pasts. Let's hope the two leaders can survive long enough to see them through.

"Firings Cut Payroll by $6 Million," by V. Dion Haynes and Theola Labbé, Washington Post, March 12, 2008

"Alonso to cut central school staff," by Sara Neufeld, Baltimore Sun, March 11, 2008

"D.C. Schools Chief Fires 98 Workers," by V. Dion Haynes and Yolanda Woodlee, Washington Post, March 8, 2008

"Workers, Council Question Firings," by V. Dion Haynes and Sylvia Moreno, Washington Post, March 9, 2008

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