Local officials are giving a cool response to California Secretary of
Education Richard Riordan's plan to put more budget and staffing
decisions in the hands of public school principals.
"We definitely are looking into empowering schools at the local
level, starting with good principals," said Hanna Skandera, Riordan's
assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education.
Riordan's plans to increase school-site control over how money is
spent on staffing and programs is not an official proposal, but one
of many he is working on to reorganize public school funding
Riordan was not available for comment Tuesday, but officials said
he will not make formal proposals until the state budget is approved.
Staff members said his plan would empower school principals to act as
"entrepreneurs," with more control over budgets and staffing.
The plan could include developing a "weighted student formula" to
dole out more funds to schools with larger English-language learner
populations and schools with larger populations of students from
Riordan's plans seem vague to Lou Stewart, co-principal at
Glendale High School, which would meet Riordan's criteria.
"To me at this point, it seems like political rhetoric," Stewart
said. "I don't know the details, but I know that in this district,
there is not a problem. We work closely with the district and they
base funding decisions based on what we say our needs are.
"Having public education fully funded would solve our problems.
This is the worst budget crisis that the state has seen in a long
time, and to me, this is vague," Stewart said Tuesday.
The Glendale Unified School District operates on a funding and
staffing formula based on student enrollment and student need, said
Steve Hodgson, the district's chief business and financial officer.
The district assigns a certain number of teachers to each school
based on enrollment, and it is up to the site principal to decide how
to assign teachers, Hodgson said.
"I don't think most of us have a problem with schools making those
decisions, but there is still a district to run," Hodgson said. "We
have to make repairs, do payrolls, make our computers work, and lots
of things outside the school site. As long as you provide the classes
students need to graduate, which is what the board says they have to
do, the rest is up to [principals]."
School board member Chuck Sambar was wary of Riordan's proposal.
"While I appreciate Riordan's proposal to provide added support to
schools with high [ELL] enrollment, I question the wisdom of direct
funding to schools when boards of education are elected to ensure how
money is spent in a school district in an equitable manner," he said.
Riordan's plan, according to reports, is rooted heavily in the
educational philosophies spelled out in UCLA management professor
William G. Ouchi's book, "Making Schools Work."
Linda Evans, co-principal at Crescenta Valley High School, bought
a copy of Ouchi's book this weekend, and described it as
"At CV, the thinking of our staff is entrepreneurial," Evans said.
"We have started a number of new programs on our own and met with
success. I think I would have to receive significant training to move
to a new system of leadership.
"I also think the plan would be very demanding of the person in
the leadership position, which is a challenge."