Mayor Seeks Deep Cuts in N.Y.C. Bureaucracy

By Peter Schmidt — February 16, 1994 3 min read

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York City has proposed deep cuts in the school system’s bureaucracy, calling for the elimination of about 2,500 non-instructional jobs, including half the district’s administration.

In his State of the City Address last week, Mr. Giuliani said, “It is time for major surgery, to remove the blockage preventing our tax dollars from reaching our children.’'

“Too many of our schools are educationally anemic,’' he said, “and the transfusions of money that would begin to revive them are being administered to administrators instead.’'

But while the Mayor conjured up images of himself as a surgeon, district and union officials likened him to an unthinking ax-wielder who was putting New York and its children at risk.

“There is no way that cuts of this magnitude will not affect the education and safety of children,’' Sandra Feldman, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a statement.

Chancellor Ramon C. Cortines, who has offered his own plan to trim 1,000 jobs, called the Mayor’s proposed administrative cuts “more than implausible’’ and argued that they would result in severe reductions in instructional services.

Such cuts, he said, also would breach a legally binding agreement between the city and school system designed to insure an adequate level of funding for schools.

Forrest R. Taylor, Mr. Giuliani’s spokesman, last week insisted that the Mayor and Mr. Cortines “are on the same wavelength’’ and working cooperatively to reach agreement on budget reductions.

Education unions also had the chancellor’s ear, however, and Mr. Cortines suggested in a letter to city school board members that they may wish to consider halting services, running a deficit, or suing the city if the school system does not receive adequate funding to provide the basic services required.

In a separate memo sent out last month, Mr. Cortines called on the leadership of the city’s various education unions to help communicate the need for more, rather than less, financial support for schools. Several members of the heavily Democratic City Council have voiced objections to the Mayor’s plan.

A Bloated Bureaucracy?

Mayor Giuliani, who faces a $2.3 billion budget deficit, argued in his speech last week that the city must lower its spending and taxes if it is to attract jobs in the private sector and take part in the nation’s economic recovery.

While repeatedly stressing his general desire to “reinvent government,’' Mr. Giuliani devoted much of his address to justifying and detailing a plan to overhaul the school system’s “bloated bureaucracy.’'

The new Republican Mayor dismissed as “nonsense’’ assertions that the school system needs more money to improve, and he maintained that schools offer a “meager’’ return on a $7 billion-a-year investment.

Mr. Giuliani pledged to cut overhead and hire more teachers, who, he said, accounted for just 64 percent of the school system’s 84,000 employees in 1992. He also said he would appoint a fiscal monitor to insure that more of the district’s money goes to education.

The statement issued by Ms. Feldman of the U.F.T. said she appreciated the Mayor’s stated intent to cut from the administrative ranks, rather than classrooms. Ms. Feldman added, however, that the city schools have already sustained $1 billion in cuts over the past few years, and that additional reductions of the size proposed by Mr. Giuliani would be “intolerable.’'

Philip Kaplan, the executive director of the New York City School Boards Association, expressed a similar view, saying that “any additional cuts will be devastating.’'

Susan Amlung, a spokeswoman for the U.F.T., said that the Mayor lacked a thorough understanding of urban education and that “he magnifies the amount of waste at the board by thinking that every person who isn’t a classroom teacher is, ipso facto, a useless administrator.’'