The D.C. Board of Education is expected to vote today on cost-cutting measures that could include systemwide four-day furloughs, the elimination of more than 75 administrative positions and a hiring freeze.

The plan, which would cut about $19 million of a projected $26 million deficit this fiscal year, signals the school system's first step toward resolving its budget crisis. But the cost-saving plan already is being assailed as too drastic by school employee groups.

The board will hold a special meeting at noon today at school district headquarters to consider the recommendations, which were approved Wednesday by its Finance Committee.

"If we could come up with some other creative options, that would please me to no end, but right now we are facing a $26 million deficit," said board member Karen Shook (At Large), who heads the finance panel.

Some school advocates and employee groups have expressed alarm over the cost-cutting proposal, citing fears that the morale of teachers and principals will be further undermined.

Frank Bolden, president of the Council of School Officers, called the plan "very, very drastic," and angrily suggested that workers are having to bear the weight of the mismanagement of top city administration.

Board President R. David Hall (Ward 2) met yesterday with representatives of the teachers union to review alternatives to harsher, long-term options that might include firing secondary school teachers.

"We would like to avoid a RIF {reduction in force} if possible, but if we cannot find an alternative that allows us to balance our budget, the RIF remains a very real possibility," Hall said.

The board is not expected to vote today on whether to eliminate any secondary-level teachers. But, among other cost-cutting measures, board members will decide whether to send out furlough notices. Board members said the vote is necessary because employees must be given 90 days' warning of furloughs. General notices of furlough could be sent to employees as early as Monday, although it remains unclear if and when the four-day furloughs would take place.

Whether furloughs take place, board members said, will depend on how successful the school administration is at finding other savings.

The cost-cutting package does not include the $10 million that Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon has suggested be cut from the school operating budget of $529 million.

Among the other reductions, the plan calls for a permanent cut in the Board of Education's budget by $100,000, or 7.5 percent.

The plan also recommends a freeze on hiring except in positions considered critical to the operation of the schools. In addition, the package puts restrictions on consultant contracts and includes freezes on spending and out-of-town travel.

Responding to widespread criticism of bloat in central administration staffing, the plan recommends the elimination of 75 administrative positions by March 30.

"One of the reasons we're in the predicament we are is because the board's policies with regard to downsizing the central administration had not moved forward," said board member Jay Silberman (At Large).

A panel of civic leaders, headed by Alice M. Rivlin, concluded last fall that the school system's central administration is overstaffed by hundreds of positions.

The committee on educational programs and operations will review next week the potential impact of firing junior high and high school teachers because school officials have said there are from 200 to 300 excess teachers at the secondary level. That committee also will review a recommendation to cut summer school programs by nearly half.

The University of the District of Columbia, which also has been told by Dixon to cut its budget, is considering its own plan to reduce summer school offerings. A UDC trustee committee approved a revised spending plan yesterday that would cut course offerings in the summer by more than half and eliminate 40 non-faculty jobs. Such a move a would require final approval from the full board of trustees.

Staff writer Keith Harriston contributed to this report.