Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Beyond Erase to the Top: Under Rhee the Bureaucracy Grew

(This post has been specially created as a link for the previous post, which can be found here.)

Washington Post education beat reporter Bill Turque published this article about the expansion of the DCPS central office under Michelle Rhee. In it, DCPS responds to this circumstance:
"Peter Weber, deputy to DCPS chief of staff Lisa Ruda, said Levy and the school system seem to have definitional differences. 
Weber said the agency defines central office employees as those who don’t work directly with students, teachers or principals. There are other people carried on the central office budget, but who spend most of their time in schools, Weber said. These include “master educators” who conduct classroom observations for IMPACT, Head Start staff and mentor teachers. Weber also said that the $100,000 employees cited by Levy actually make that amount in salary and benefits combined. There are 402 DCPS employees at that level, and that 80 percent of them work in the schools, he said."

In response to Weber's claims, Mary Levy sent the following to Bill Turque (which so far he has not reported): 

1. DCPS is mistaken about the $100,000 number being a combination of salaries and benefits. All apart from the fact that the column in the PeopleSoft listing is clearly labeled Salary, I had checked numbers there against salary schedules. They are salaries, not salaries plus benefits.

 2. As of last October there were an additional 110 employees making over 100,000 who do work in the schools, all but 6 of them principals.

 3. About the amount of salaries plus benefits, it’s hard to say. DCPS has a long history of overestimating benefits (the overage is used to cover overspending elsewhere in the budget), and the payroll data I have don’t include any estimate or actual data on benefits. 

I think that transferring people elsewhere in the government doesn’t count as cutting them (come on!). Of the 925 central office people in 2007, 358 were performing functions subsequently transferred or contracted out. That’s why I went back to prior years and re-analyzed them to exclude people performing those functions. The remaining 626 included the professional development, mentor teachers, etc.

The definition of central office staff that I’ve used all these years, often  with the agreement of DCPS officials, is people who do not work directly with  children. This system was modeled in part on the In$ite education cost  accounting system developed some years ago by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and  Coopers & Lybrand, which made its main division between site-based and central. I expanded site-based to include some people who are not site-based but work directly with children, such as social workers, visiting teachers. But I haven’t counted people who work only with teachers and principals.

For example, there are 41 master educators who travel around from school to school observing and rating teachers, and I classify them as central office because they don’t work with children. For that matter they don’t have ongoing  relationships with teachers or principals, since they only observe each teacher  in their own subject area for 30 minutes twice a year. Likewise the central  office professional development staff. There are also about 100 instructional  coaches who belong to local schools, and relate to children as well as teachers, and I classify them as school-based. (How many of these people do we need?) I count the Head Start social services staff as school-based.

This is actually an in-between position. The National Center for Education  Statistics sorts school employees into two bins -- teachers and aides (classroom)  and everyone else; people then look at their numbers and call everything else  administration, which is misleading. The question I’ve been asked by parents and ommunity for 30 years is how many people are in the classroom? I tell them that many people not in the classroom work directly with students,  for example, librarians, counselors, speech therapists, etc., and that some people who work directly with children are paid from central accounts, but still, they work with children, in schools, and that’s the question that they really should be asking.

1 comment:

  1. This is great work, Rachel. It is especially needed when we have Jay Matthews giving a PR puff piece to Rhee in today's paper. His opening statement is astonishing in its denial: "But I still think she did much good for D.C. children — reviving a moribund school headquarters, closing half-empty schools and getting achievement back on an upward path." So it is really satisfying to have several posts by you to refer to when refuting Jay and the dwindling Rhee fan base. As you have demonstrated, Rhee essentially did very little for DCPS. She bloated the headquarters that she "revived" (by hiring in TFAers like her friend Henderson) and closing schools (as long as the parents couldn't fight back) and raising test scores (through cheating). Wow, that is true achievement. Frank Abagnale would be proud.