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Among bureaucrats, curriculum jobs down, accountability is up

I reported in February that the degree to which the Department of Education’s bureaucracy is growing depends on which bureaucracy you’re talking about: the central brain at Tweed Courthouse has gained members, but the nervous system known as “the field,” whose suited desk-sitters are located throughout the five boroughs, is shrinking in size.

The degree of growth also depends on the kind of bureaucrat, and the way the kinds shake out — which have been kept and which have not — sheds some light on the Bloomberg administration’s priorities. (Recall that all departments inside the DOE were asked to write plans for budget cuts, but not all had to enact them.)

While those specializing in areas such as teaching and learning, food and nutrition, family engagement, and operations are losing ground, officials who work in accountability, budget, and transportation matters proliferate, according to new, more detailed numbers the department (finally) disclosed to me.

The department slashed 13 officials from the central teaching and learning office at Tweed and fired seven teaching and learning officials working in field offices between January 2008 and January 2009. It also eliminated 110 officials from the Integrated Service Center, which handles operations work for schools like budget, special education, and enrollment; 24 field staff who did youth and family work; and 18 people from Tweed’s Office of School Food and Nutrition Services. (A central family engagement and advocacy office added six staff members.)

Meanwhile, the offices at Tweed that added staff include the human resources division (18), the Office of School and Youth Development (11), the Office of Legal Services/Labor Relations (10), and the Office of Accountability (5). The department also hired three new people to do accountability work in the field.

The changes came during a year when school officials vowed to slash the size of the bureaucracy as a way to protect schools from state and city budget cuts. A DOE spokeswoman, Ann Forte, said that, in October, the department banned creating any new positions — and created a requirement that all new hires would have to get special approval from Chancellor Joel Klein. The department also pushed forward a plan in June to cut its budget by laying off family engagement staff and Integrated Service Center operations staff. The plan is summarized on page 14 of this Power Point presentation, which was presented to the Panel for Educational Policy.

Some of the rises in staff, Forte said, could be a result of changes that happened before October 2008. They could also be genuine additions. Forte said there is no formal hiring freeze at the DOE currently, though some offices have been banned from filling vacancies. The reductions, she said, could stem from budget cuts. “There could be a lot of things at play, but some of it is attributed to budget,” she told me.

Here’s a complete list of changes in staff at Tweed Courthouse from last January to this one (in Excel form). These are the headcount changes at field offices during the same period, which come to a net reduction of 114:

  • 8 added to school support organizations
  • 7 reduced from teaching and learning
  • 110 reduced from Integrated Service Centers
  • 3 added to accountability
  • 21 added to the Committee for Special Education
  • 24 reduced from youth and parent staff
  • 4 reduced from District 75 administration

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