New York City schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said that public schools, especially those in urban areas, face a paradox in that they need more funding to insure that all students can achieve academic success, but additional money alone “won’t get the job done.”

Speaking at the Fordham Graduate School of Education’s inaugural Fiscal Accountability Conference on March 12, Klein said that the paradox can be resolved by empowering schools to have greater discretion over budgeting while holding them accountable for improved student learning.

Joel I. Klein Photo by Chris Taggart

“Dollars will never be limitless,” Klein told the gathering of more than 100 New York City principals. “You have to make tough choices, and the choice I want you to make is to focus on ‘What is the return I’m getting in student performance for the dollars I’m investing?’ And the conceptual question I’d ask you to address is whether it’s more likely that a central bureaucracy will figure out how to make the most prudent investments for your schools or is it more likely that you, working with your teachers, with your parents, with your school community … will figure out the best way to get the returns necessary to improve student performance?”

Klein has implemented a reform initiative known as “Children First,” which includes the Empowerment Schools program, an effort to give hundreds of schools more direct control over hiring, curriculum, budgets and other key functions if they meet certain performance standards. Other speakers at the conference, organized by GSE’s Division of Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy, included New York City Comptroller William Thompson and Deborah Cunningham, Ph.D., coordinator of educational management services at the New York State Department of Education.