Message From The Chancellor,  January 2001 Page 1

These fiscal year 2000 School Based Expenditure Reports contain the financial data for the New York City public schools.  The reports display, in detail, where and how the Board of Education's money was spent.  In addition, these reports contain comparative data that look at how New York City public schools spent their money relative to the spending patterns of other school districts nationwide.

The publication of these reports speaks to one of the fundamental priorities I established where I arrived at the NYC Board of Education: to make the Board's operations more transparent to public scrutiny.  Just as shareholders demand timely, accurate accounts of public corporations, the many stakeholders in New York's public school system have the right to hold the schools, districts, and central organizations accountable for their performance.  I have the concomitant responsibility to provide them with the information needed to evaluate that performance.  These reports serve that purpose.

This year's reports are particularly timely, coming at a time when public education is at the center of public attention.  The parents, children, employers and taxpayers all see public education as a critical issue.  There is widespread support for increased investment in public schools,  For cities like New York, which have historically been shortchanged, that investment is long overdue.  As New York State Supreme Court Justice DeGrasse wrote in his recent landmark ruling, "the majority of the city's public school students leave high school unprepared for more than low-paying work, unprepared for college and unprepared for the duties placed on them by a democratic society."

The New York City schools cannot hope to provide an equal educational opportunity when forced to spend thousands less per student than the schools of their wealthier suburban neighbors.  On a simple per pupil basis, the funding discrepancy is enormous.  On a measure of real educational need, the gap is even more staggering.  As someone accustomed to making decisions based on hard data, I find this inequity rationally indefensible.  As a citizen, I find it morally unacceptable.  The New York State Supreme Court has found it unconstitutional, and I firmly believe that the decision was correct.

These reports show that we are working to ensure that precious tax dollars are invested in teaching children rather than in unnecessary bureaucracy.  Year after year, the School Based Budget and Expenditure Reports show that New York City public schools are investing their money where it counts -- in instruction.  As I increase the efficiency of the system's administration, I am freeing up more dollars to flow directly to schools and children.  Effective immediately, $35 million is being transferred from central administration to schools and districts.  In Fiscal 2002, I anticipate that a total of $143 million will be transferred to schools and districts.  The total current year shift to school and district budgets from central administrative budgets will be approximately $50 million yet more needs to be done.  I intend to make significant structural changes this year.  The responsibility for budgetary decision making in the future will rest in district offices and individual schools, closer to the users of these services rather than in the central administration.

I hope that these reports will promote understanding the ways in which we are realigning our limited budget to address the needs of students.

Harold O. Levy