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Gray and Rhee Still Contesting the Count

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee continue their standoff over public school enrollment and funding, with the latest wrinkles involving stimulus money.

Gray is telling constituents that if Rhee is so concerned about the $27.3 million the D.C. Council pulled from the 2010 DCPS budget, she can close the gap by diverting some of the torrent of federal stimulus dollars and other funds available to DCPS. But Rhee says the money is already spoken for.

To recap, Gray and Rhee are locked in a disagreement over how many public school students the District will be serving this fall. Rhee is projecting a slight increase to 45,054 after years of persistent decline. The Council doesn't buy it, especially with increasingly popular charter schools forecasting another big jump, and suspects that Rhee is padding the numbers to get more money for the school system. Gray and his staff, using the last three years worth of data, estimate the student population at 41,541. (Rhee's office says that's also wrong -- that by the Council's methodology it's actually 42,000, still a big gap)

On May 12, the Council placed $27. 3 million of the system's $760 million budget in escrow, pending a count of enrollment in October. Gray said if Rhee is right, she can have the money back. Rhee said she needs to hire and prepare now for the beginning of the academic year.

Rhee has been pushing the Council to roll back the decision when it meets to vote on final passage of the budget next week.

In a Memorial Day e-mail to a concerned constituent, Gray cited the District's May 12 announcement of a $42.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for "academic improvements," followed 10 days later by word that D.C was in line for $76.3 million in stimulus dollars (from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).
"The point is that these funds are available to fill any existing gap for a few weeks until the enrollment matter is settled," Gray wrote, "not to supplant but merely to ensure continuity until the enrollment data are available. Thus, there is no reason not to proceed as planned."

Rhee referred requests for comment to spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway, who said this evening that DCPS' portion of the $76.3 million in stimulus dough has already been rolled into the per-pupil funding formula for 2010. "This money is not an independent piece of the overall budget that can be reallocated at will," she said. Same for the $42.2 million from Education, which she said is already earmarked for specific reform projects.

If the Council doesn't reverse its decision, Rhee says she stands ready to make up the $27 million shortfall by cutting teacher jobs. The situation has drawn concern from the Washington Teachers' Union president George Parker and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. In a joint statement issued this evening, they commended Gray for challenging Rhee's numbers. "Accountability need to extend in all directions," they said.

But Parker and Weingarten called for an end to the impasse and "clear and immediate guidance" on how many teaching jobs will be available.
Bill Turque

By Kathryn Tolbert  |  May 27, 2009; 9:20 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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"If the Council doesn't reverse its decision, Rhee says she stands ready to make up the $27 million shortfall by cutting teacher jobs"

So what else is new? Rhee is always standing ready to fire teachers. It's her modus operandi for DC education reform.

Posted by: efavorite | May 27, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Anytime the Chancellor is asked to put up or shut up she threatens terminating teachers. It is as if she is using them as pawns in a game of chess.

It is the Council's responsibility to ensure that the already bloated per pupil budget of the District is being effectively and efficiently utilized. Otherwise, those funds can and should be used in other government initiatives such as fighting the nations highest HIV/AIDS rate in the District.

Or, maybe the Mayor may have an old high school track coach who rubs his feet before triathlons that he would like to grant a no-bid contract to.

DCPS has PLENTY of money as it stands. It is just not being managed appropriately. If Rhee cannot exercise some fiscal discipline, maybe it is time we find someone who can.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | May 27, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

No matter who is right, the Chancellor's use of teachers and children as political pawns is despicable. I wouldn't put ANY money into something where I didn't know how it was spent...even our corporations, faced with rapidly declining sales have tried to save jobs before cutting their main labor force. Does she even care about the kids or just about getting what she wants?

My baby niece is more mature.

Posted by: jbrauch21 | May 27, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

DCPS FY2010 Proposed Budget -- Funding Sources:
$533,390,340 Local Funds
9,954,878 Federal Grants
13,000,000 Federal Payment
169,453,863 Intra-District
3,783,609 Private Grants
4,004,872 Special Purpose Revenue
29,400,000 Federal "State Stabilization"
$762,987,567 Grand Total - DCPS for 2009-2010

(From DCPS website, Budget documents dated March 20, 2009): )

The $27.5 set aside would be subtracted from the "Local Funds" until released.

Where is the $42.2 million Federal grant for "academic improvements" in the above?
Where is the $76.3 million Federal stimulus money in the above?
Mr. Gray indicated that these amounts were announced in May after the budget was submitted and reviewed!

One cannot just "roll the Federal stimulus dough into the per-pupil funding formula". The "per-pupil funding formula" is the "Local Funds" amount above only!

So where is this federal money going? What is it paying for? Where is the Obama promised transparency? Maybe it's in the "Intra-District" amounts since this is an opaque reference.

Of the $533,390,340 in Local Funds, only about $373,896,287 will go to local schools as part of their managable budgets (teachers and supplies). Yet Ms. Rhee's response is to subtract the $27.5 million from the $373.9 million for local schools which represents a 7.3% reduction in each schools funding. This results in the large number of teacher positions about to be removed from the schools for next year. I don't think this is what President Obama intended to happen with the stabilization funds (lost jobs).

Ms. Rhee should propose a more rational response to this minor budget adjustment that takes into account the impact on children and learning and does not selfishly protect the "reform efforts of adults".

Posted by: interested8 | May 27, 2009 11:18 PM | Report abuse

The Rhee method: Rule by fear and threats. IT's not impressive and it's so old and predictable.

Posted by: candycane1 | May 28, 2009 6:53 AM | Report abuse

Right now, residency verification is occurring at all DCPS schools. Perhaps Rhee could pull together the number of verified registered students, as proof that she has the projected enrollment for next year?

Then, the charter schools could submit there numbers of registered students.

I imagine that mid-point number would illustrate Councilchairman Gray's point, that the charters are gaining enrollment at the expense of DCPS schools.

Let's not do this next year. Next year, let's return to the pre-Fenty approach of funding DCPS based on previous year enrollment, not on next year's projections.

Posted by: ShepherdParentof2redheads | May 28, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse


At least somebody here found a use for data. Could the 42.2 million be the sum of the 13M Federal Payment and 29M Federal "State Stabilization"? I know it doesn't add up exactly.

Regardless, I figured it would be relevant to look at last year's numbers and compare it to this year's. Last year DCPS spend 782M or asked for it, whatever. This year with a slight student increase (by Rhee's estimate), they are asking for 762M. That simple analysis illustrates that on a per pupil basis, Rhee is expecting to spend less. So she is not sitting on extra money and asking for more money just for craps and giggles.


Posted by: makplan20002 | May 28, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Addendum to above:

It appears as though Rhee is not needlessly threatening to fire teachers since she asked for less than this year's per pupil amount and the council is giving her less than that.

So teachers who dont want to be fired better hope Rhee's projections are right. And if they are not, you should probably thank her for fighting to keep 300 jobs.

Posted by: makplan20002 | May 28, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Further addendum:

If Rhee just wants to fire people to get rid of who she sees as bad apples, she would just suck it up and accept the budget cuts for her long term plan.

So maybe the lousy teachers who are fearing for their jobs and think everything Rhee does is to get rid of them, should apply some logic to the situation every now and then.

Posted by: makplan20002 | May 28, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Misrhee has no plan. She never has had any plan aside from firing people. It's almost as if she gets off on terminations.

As an aside, when is parent and staff data about mishreee going to be used as a part of her evaluation? That is data! Oh, my bad: mr. mayor is the only person who evaluates her. So, in keeping with his lack of transparency and disclosure, she'll keep doing what she wants to do until someone does a closer examination of her fiduciary actions and her mounting lawsuits for wrongful, arbitrary and capricious terminations. Business as usual for the traveling, spoiled-stamp-my-feet mayor.

Posted by: southyrndiva | May 28, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I don't know what's wrong with Makplan's analysis, but something is. If Rhee were asking for less this year than last year, teh Council would have noticed it and Rhee she would have gone into the council meeting making that point.

Posted by: efavorite | May 28, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Why would staff data be used to evaluate Rhee? Isnt that the problem? It's not about staff, it's about the kids. Parent data I suppose would correlate with kids data.

Posted by: makplan20002 | May 28, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse


I don't know what's wrong with Makplan's analysis, but something is. If Rhee were asking for less this year than last year, the Council would have noticed it and Rhee would have gone into the council meeting making that point.

Posted by: efavorite | May 28, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Makplan - Rhee has defined staff (i.e.teachers) as the problem, but that doesn't mean they are the problem - or that they are the whole problem or the major problem. that's where a thorough evaluation comes in, with staff as one element.

Then again, you could fire all the "bad apples" as defined by Rhee, and the problem goes away, according to Rhee.

Posted by: efavorite | May 28, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse


The staff is the only problem Rhee has control over. She can't change the home life of every kid out there. That isnt her department. She and all the teachers out there have to start expecting success in spite of these challenges. That is the right attitude. Saying "I could be a good teacher if..." wont cut it. It might be true and you might be a good teacher if the parents were involved, etc. But they arent and you (not necessarily you but the hypothetical teacher) aren't be. It is just the facts.

If you get rid of the dead weight and bring in someone who isnt jaded and will at least try hard for a year or two or three, the children will be better off

Posted by: makplan20002 | May 28, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Makplan - no one, not even Michelle Rhee, can make people perform miracles - just because she has "control" over them. She can threaten, denigrate, and fire them or drive them away and bring in a new batch, but miracles - no.

A teacher in a room with too many kids with too many discipline problems is not going to be able to do so well even with the few kids who want to learn - too many distractions. Any teacher will tell you that they alone don't have that kind of control.

A teacher - or any employee or any athlete - can't perform superbly in any circumstance, no matter how much control their boss exerts.

Posted by: efavorite | May 28, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

It may be worth noting that the DCPS central office staff and district personel have yet to receive an accurate enrollment count under the control of Ms. Rhee. In fact printed, detailed enrollment data is simply not available when requested. The 300 new children Rhee hopes to enroll are preschool children, if she can obtain the funding. The process for obtaining funding for new preschool/pre-kindergarten spaces is through the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. It is curious that she has not pursued this avenue when substantial funding was made available through the Pre-K Enhancement Act, carried by Councilman Gray and approved and signed by the City Council. The objective for increasing the preschool/pre-k enrollment is obvious as the higher enrollment count the higher the revenue. Children and families continue to leave DCPS in droves beginning in third grade. However, there is a great demand for the pre-k program as it has a good reputation as a high quality program, having been ranked 9 out of 10 by the National Institute for Early Education Research before Rhee took control. The City Council has good cause to be caucious.

In the worst case senario, which given the stimulus funds should never come to pass, the need for the hundreds of central office staff Ms. Rhree has hired should be assessed before children are affected by firing teachers. Salaries of top adminstrators should also be considered if reductions are required. It is long past time that the District of Columbia Public Schools really put "Children First".

Posted by: highquality4kids | May 28, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't matter whether or not you think some teachers should lose their jobs if they can't perform in spite of all the obstacles. Those won't necessarily be the ones that lose their jobs in the budget cuts. Those lowest on the seniority totem pole are the ones who will lose their jobs. Cutting teachers does not equal cutting bad teachers.

So makplan it's not only lousy teachers who are worried about Rhee cutting jobs. It's everybody, who will have to work even more miracles in their more crowded classrooms next year if jobs are cut.

Posted by: heydiaz | May 28, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

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