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City rolls back but doesn’t abandon bid to cull schools’ savings

Responding to principals’ ire, the Department of Education is reducing the portion of funds it plans to recoup from schools that save for next year.

Schools will now get to keep 70 percent of the money that principals elect to roll over to next year’s budget, according to an email that Chancellor Cathie Black just sent to school leaders. That’s up from the 50 percent that the DOE originally announced last month it would reclaim for administrative spending. Principals still have until March 18 to decide whether to participate in the rollover program, known as the Deferred Program Planning Initiative, or go on a spending spree right now.

The take-back plan angered principals and parents who felt penalized for budgeting prudently in tough times. It was in response to their “thoughtful feedback” that the change was made, Black wrote.

Last year, then-Chancellor Joel Klein also made a bid to take back every cent principals set aside in rainy-day funds for the subsequent year. After protests, Klein reversed his decree. Mayor Bloomberg yesterday suggested that he favored a similar change this year, saying during a radio interview that criticism of Black’s plan contained “some merit” and that he would be discussing the plan with Black early this week.

Today, Bloomberg said in a statement, “The chancellor came in this afternoon and briefed me on her plan, and I immediately signed off on it.”

Black’s complete email to principals is below:

From: Black Cathie Sent: Monday, March 07, 2011 5:16 PM Subject: Update: Deferred Program Planning Initiative Dear Colleagues, In response to thoughtful feedback from principals, parents and school communities, we have amended the guidelines to the Deferred Program Planning Initiative. Funds set aside in FY11 will carry a 70% return for FY12 as opposed to 50%, as initially announced. Financial criteria for participation, including guidelines regarding maximization of stimulus (ARRA) funding as well as the application process, can be found in the Program Guidelines. Participating principals can schedule these funds in the Deferred Program Set Aside title in the OTPS section of their Galaxy table of organization (TO). The March 18th deadline will remain in effect. All Deferred Program Set Aside funds will be removed from the 2010-2011 budgets of participating schools on March 18. The Deferred Program Set Aside title and items associated with it will also be deleted. CFN budget staff will contact you regarding your school’s pass/fail status. The criteria will be updated according to the calendar in the guideline memo. If you have any questions regarding your school’s standing in respect to the program criteria, or questions about eligibility, contact your CFN. Thank you, as always, for your helpful input. Sincerely, Cathleen P. Black Chancellor