Rhee back in trouble with D.C. teachers
D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee still hasn’t learned perhaps the most important part of her job: Good communication.
Just as she was earning kudos for reaching a historic contract with teachers and appeared to be starting anew with the teaching force, she plopped herself right in the middle of a new controversy about last year’s firing of 266 teachers.
How did this happen? Because she wasn’t straightforward in handling important budget information.
Today she told the D.C. Council that retroactive pay raises for teachers under the proposed contract would be paid, in part, out of a $34 million surplus in the school system’s budget, according to my colleague Bill Turque.
A surplus? Of $34 million?
When Rhee laid off the teachers last year, she said they had to go because of a $43 million budget gap. That action caused enormous grief for Rhee, with teachers protesting and even taking her to court. She won, persuading a judge that the deficit was real and that the layoffs were necessary.
But, she said today, there had been, in fact, faulty mathematical calculations by city officials and there really isn’t a deficit. There’s actually a surplus.
Rhee said that estimates of teacher salaries were higher than they should have been last year, resulting in an unexpected surplus. And, she said, she didn’t learn about it until February, a few months after the teachers were pushed off the district payroll.
It’s the middle of April.
If you take her at her word, that she didn’t know until February, one might speculate that Rhee kept the news to herself because she was negotiating the contract with teachers and didn't want the talks to blow up.
Now, of course, union members may refuse to take money for raises that they know is available as a result of teacher layoffs. They may not. The union is calling for the laid off teachers to be reinstated.
Whatever they do, what is disturbing is Rhee’s continued refusal to be up front with city residents about important information regarding school financing. She somehow thinks the information is hers to dispense when the timing is right -- for her.
It would be best for D.C. kids if Michelle Rhee’s reform effort actually works in improving schools.
It’s just hard to see how that is going to happen when she keeps landing herself in situations that only increase people’s mistrust of her.
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| April 13, 2010; 4:48 PM ET
Categories: D.C. Schools | Tags: Chancellor Michelle Rhee, D.C. schools, D.C. schools and budget, D.C. teacher firings and Rhee, D.C. teachers, D.C. teachers and Rhee, D.C. teachers contract, Rhee and D.C. Council, Rhee and D.C. teachers, Rhee and controversy, teacher layoffs and D.C.
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