School leadership may be one of the top issues of the day in education, but it’s nowhere to be found in President Bush’s budget plan.
In fact, the only federal job that focuses directly on school leadership issues may be cut: the national principal-in-residence.
The lack of attention to school leadership programs in the proposed Department of Education budget Mr. Bush unveiled last week has school administrators’ groups worried about the new administration’s devotion to their field.
“There’s been a real awakening across America of school leadership. We’re not seeing that reflected” in the administration’s priorities, said Gerald N. Tirozzi, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, who served as an assistant secretary of education in the Clinton administration.
“What we would like to see are dollars that are specifically targeted for training for school leaders,” said Vincent F. Ferrandino, the executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. “Not specifically earmarking it really sends the wrong signal to our school leaders.”
Secretary of Education Rod Paige was not available for an interview last week, but he said at a press conference April 9 that he supported significant changes in the way his agency works and pays for school programs.
“Simply spending more money in the same way is not the answer,” he said.
Lindsey Kozberg, a spokeswoman for Mr. Paige, confirmed that the national principal-in-residence, along with the national teacher-in-residence, would see “changes.” But she added that the planned changes did not reflect any lack of interest in school leadership issues by the new administration.
“You will see from the office of the secretary, within the department, willingness to work with school administrators, superintendents, and principals alike,” Ms. Kozberg said. “Given his background as a superintendent, Secretary Paige knows what it’s like to get three phone calls a day before you’re done shaving.”
Mr. Paige was the schools chief in Houston before being tapped for the secretary’s position.
No Education Department program currently focuses on school administrators directly, except for the principal- in-residence position.
But the department has focused on leadership before.
Former Secretary Richard W. Riley pushed for a $40 million grant program last year that would have opened leadership academies for school administrators across the country. The idea didn’t survive last year’s budget debate, but it may be proposed again this year by Sen. John Kerry, D- Mass.
Leadership programs began at the federal level in the 1970s in the Office of Education, before the office became a separate Cabinet-level department during the Carter administration.
The department’s most substantial program for school administrators was born in 1984, during the Reagan administration. LEAD, or Leadership in Education Administration Development, provided grants for states and U.S. territories to begin their own school leadership centers. The program lasted six years.
Centers opened in 57 states and territories, with the goal of providing better training for school administrators, said Hunter S. Moorman, who oversaw leadership programs at the agency for many years.
Mr. Moorman said some of the LEAD centers thrived more than others, but they all helped develop the written materials and practices that led to today’s focus on administrators as leaders of teaching and learning.
“The work that LEAD began ... still needs to be done,” he said.
The Reagan administration and the first Bush administration developed innovative leadership academies through grants to existing training centers, including universities, Mr. Moorman said. The federally financed education laboratories also participate in leadership-related activities.
But this year, President Bush’s lack of specific proposals on school leadership issues is meeting with concern.
More attention to school leadership could help the nation avert a big shortage of principals that is expected in the next five years, the leaders of the national principals’ groups argue, and could provide training for current principals who need more knowledge and skills to improve teaching and meet new academic expectations.
Mr. Tirozzi said the federal government should consider direct spending on leadership programs. “If education is our number-one priority, it takes that,” he argued.
Two Democratic senators may push for specific proposals in the final budget that would affect school administrators.
Sen. Kerry is said to want to revive the $40 million leadership-academy proposal from last year, along with a grant program that would send money to states for the professional development of school leaders.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., has introduced a $50 million bill that would expand a teacher-recruitment grant program to include principals.
Ms. Kozberg said that those plans intentionally aren’t included in the Bush administration’s budget, but that Mr. Paige has discretion to use some department money for leadership activities.
The president’s budget plan would give states greater flexibility so that some money could be used for leadership development, she said.
“With our budget, there’s probably greater flexibility at the state level for that purpose,” she said, “in an effort to focus on results, rather than create programs.”
A ‘Way to be Heard’
The national principal-in-residence, a small but well-known program that began in 1993, is aimed at providing the perspective of a working administrator to the department.
Ms. Kozberg said the administration would seek other ways to tap the advice and perspectives of working school administrators.
“It’s accurate to say there will be changes in those programs,” she said, “and probably a broadening.”
Carole Kennedy, a former elementary and middle school principal from Columbia, Mo., is the current principal-in-residence. The nonpolitical, two-year appointment involves speaking at administrator conferences and leading workshops. Ms. Kennedy’s term ends in July.
Vicki Baldwin, who was the national principal-in-residence in 1995 and 1996, said she brought practical views to high-level policy discussions and learned immensely from the experience.
“If they’re truly doing away with this, then what kind of message is that? I hate to think that it’s just simply political,” said Ms. Baldwin.
A version of this article appeared in the April 18, 2001 edition of Education Week as Lack of Leadership Programs In Bush Budget Bemoaned