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Message to spend, not save, unfamiliar to principals, one writes

The Department of Education’s decision to go through with its bid to take back some of the funds that principals save represents a “fundamental policy shift” in its philosophy of school management.

That’s the argument made by a principal who emailed us yesterday after the city announced it would cull just 30 percent of funds that principals set aside for next year, instead of half, as originally planned. Principals are still under the incentive to spend their entire budgets now, and that’s at odds with messages they’ve gotten in the past, the principal said.

Here’s the complete email from the principal, who also weighed in last week to lament losing his cushion for next year:

That the terms of the Deferred Program Planning Initiative were modified is a clear response to widespread frustration among principals, parents and elected officials. It also seems to reflect the Mayor’s reticence to support a policy which penalizes the city’s most fiscally responsible schools. The basic fact, however, remains. Schools which have been strategic in building reserves to offset future budget cuts will either hastily spend these on equipment and supplies or see their budgets cut more than schools which saved nothing. This is a fundamental policy shift with a clear message for principals: spend every last dollar each year regardless of immediate need or future budget projections.

Putting any significant surcharge on roll over funds removes the incentive to save and encourages irresponsible spending. Given the enormous long term costs of such behavior, I sincerely hope Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Black will reconsider.

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