REMEMBER THOSE matchbook covers with the simple sketch of a woman's face and a caption saying that "if you can draw this, you can get a degree as a professional artist"? There is a certain similar get-ahead-quick message in the latest news from high atop the administration of the District's public school system. Rhody McCoy, hired by Acting Superintendent James T. Guines as a special assistant, is seeking to use money from the budget for a quickie degree program that he's slapping together to sell to teachers.

It's a rotten idea. For once, moreover, the school board seems to recognize as much. It decided the other night that it's no dice for the Rhody McCoy School of Shortcuts unless there's a better explanation of it than anyone has yet seen. To finance this program, officially named the "Professional Development Institute," Mr. McCoy seeks to divert $60,000 from a "food services" fund that seems to have accrued in some mysterious way.

Under the arrangements being whipped together by Mr. McCoy, tuition charges of $330 a course for the 20-week programs would go to the University of Massachusetts -- where Mr. McCoy earned his doctorate. But just what kind of master's degree this might lead to is unclear, since the university is not licensed to offer any courses in the District.

Fortunately, no tuition has been collected yet, nor has any school money been spent on the degree-mill proposal. For now at least, Mr. McCoy's package stands as a model of what this city's struggling public school system needs least: an offer of quick but dubious academic advancement at a cost that the schools and the teachers can ill afford.