Where’s the ‘Fiscal Equity’ for
It may come as a surprise,
but I actually requested to be among the last to testify
before the City Council’s Commission
on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. I had made a private bet
with myself and unfortunately, I won. Over a period of months
and throughout the six sessions worth of testimony from educators,
parents and community activists, legislators and policy makers,
I did not hear one word about the necessity for increasing
the support and resources for school leaders.
I have heard the call for reduced class size, for more training
and higher pay for teachers, for comprehensively-improved early
childhood, for new buildings and the repair of antiquated ones,
and for safer schools.
There are two things no one addressed:
1) The critical need for our school leaders to share their
instructional, supervisory and administrative responsibilities
with an appropriately assigned and licensed supervisory staff.
2) With the exception of several attempts to assign large
dollar amounts to an anticipated infusion of dollars, no one
laid out a time frame or set the groundwork for the strategic
utilization and evaluation of the new dollars.
One of the greatest failures of the management of our school
system over the course of time is that we approach education
in bits and pieces rather than with a comprehensive and strategic
view. Because the system, as a whole, is politically driven
and those in charge are constantly changing, school leaders
are juggling the old and the new simultaneously, waiting for
the next plan to carry forward and never given enough time
to see if the old plan had any merit.
I have never witnessed a comprehensive plan for this system
that incorporates a long-range vision supported with strategic
steps to reach each benchmark along the way. It is and has
been a system of impatience and fragmentation and I am afraid
that it will continue to be that if we do not consider how,
over time, we can incorporate the serious suggestions emerging
from all the testimony presented before all the various commissioners
on all the various commissions.
As for where school
leaders fit into the puzzle of how to spend the potential
CFE dollars, the meager references to principals always seemed
to be tied to that dreaded word “accountability.” I
must have missed any discussion about how to support principals.
Clearly, any references to Assistant Principals or central
administrative support must have whizzed right over my head.
In fact, I have never
seen a city or state plan that supports Principals and addresses
the need for professional supervision of all functions in
our schools. We expect the Principal to not only provide
instructional leadership, but also supervise every detail
of the school’s operations. And in a system
that separates instructional support from administrative support,
neither “head” gets the full picture of a principal’s
in the testimony does anyone acknowledge the value of Assistant
Principals, Supervisors and Education Administrators. Nor
have I ever seen a plan that mandates supervisory expertise
in areas that are essential to improve student and teacher
performance–guidance, early childhood, special
education, bilingual education, social work and psychology.
Abundant research supports
the theory that a Principal’s
strong instructional leadership skills are essential for a
school to succeed. Yet, I wonder if the general public understands
what a NYC public school Principal is required to do. If we
want our Principals to truly lead schools, to provide instructional
leadership, to provide a vision for staff and parents, to guide
our children, then we must acknowledge that these school leaders
need real help. They cannot do it alone and then be called
on the carpet when, surprise, their schools fail to meet some
Jill Levy is the President of the Council for Supervisors