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Rhee Fires Back at Council; Warns Teachers Will Be Cut

Chancellor Michelle Rhee has quickly responded to the Council's decision this morning to reduce the schools budget by $27.5 million until enrollment projections for the 2009-2010 school year can be verified.

In a letter to Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), Rhee said the decision will "negatively impact school opening in August 2009" and will "impact every school in the District and their ability to recruit and hire teachers."

"Under the amendment, DCPS no longer has $27.5 million allocated to schools as part of the FY 2010 budget," Rhee wrote. "While it may be restored well after the school year opens, it is simply too late to staff schools. As such, we have no choice but to reduce school budgets and eliminate positions now."

The Council, which is skeptical school enrollment will increase after years of decline, has put the money for escrow until an audit can be performed. Gray has promised the money will be restored if the school system can prove the projected 3,000- pupil enrollment increase will occur.

Rhee said the reduction, which equates to about $623 per pupil, will have a dramatic effect on local schools. If allowed to stand, she said the system will have 338 teachers fewer teaching positions next year.

"I urge your support for a DCPS budget that includes adequate resources in which to plan for a successful school year," Rhee wrote.

Rhee's letter sets the stage for a potentially messy public relations battle as the school year winds down. Council members say they are just trying to hold the system accountable for how it spends taxdollars. But Council members are now in the endure untenable position of having to respond to charges they are cutting teachers.

By Tim Craig  |  May 12, 2009; 2:43 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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Hold on, let's see...

The council says the the enrollment is 3,000 less and cuts $27.5M. Rhee says that 3,000 fewer students means she has to cut 338 teachers. Math anyone, that's a ratio of ~9 students/1 teacher.

I know, I know, I know... it doesn't quite work like that because of school specific distribution of teachers, students, class sizes, contract requirements, etc.

But come on... 338 teachers reduction for 3,000 students that the council is just asked that the number be audited??? Instead of brinksmanship, maybe Rhee can turn around an enrollment audit in a timely manner...

Posted by: shepDC | May 12, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

"If allowed to stand, she said the system will have 338 teachers fewer teaching positions next year. "

'Cause you know, those administrators are making minumum wage. Yeah, right.

Posted by: gm123 | May 12, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Aww hush, Rhee. You know good and well you don't have an extra 3000 kids this year. I'm on your team, so stop looking suspicious before I change my mind about you.

Posted by: forgetthis | May 12, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I say again:

Vincent Gray is against city school!


Posted by: bs2004 | May 12, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Sure would be nice if the Chancellor of Schools used proper grammar. "Impact" is not a verb -- it only pretends to be one in business school jargon. Let's hope Ms. Rhee's math is better than her English.

Posted by: MaggieinBrookland | May 12, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

impact - results

–verb (used with object)
1. to have an impact or effect on; influence; alter: The decision may impact your whole career. The auto industry will be impacted by the new labor agreements.

2. to have an impact or effect: Increased demand will impact on sales.

Posted by: dcpsinsider | May 12, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

sorry, here are some non-business definitions, too, from the same source.

verb (used with object) 6. to drive or press closely or firmly into something; pack in.
7. to fill up; congest; throng: A vast crowd impacted St. Peter's Square.
8. to collide with; strike forcefully: a rocket designed to impact the planet Mars.

Posted by: dcpsinsider | May 12, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Uncharacteristically, I agree with Rhee. The city council’s decision to not raise the budget most likely will impact her ability to hire teachers.

As well it should.

New teachers would be crazy to walk into this hell-hole, run by an ego-maniacal, extraordinarily clever chancellor, supported by an ego-maniacal, extraordinarily dense mayor. This system is going to collapse sometime soon, I hope, so that it can be put back together before too much more damage is done.

More power to the city council for finally seeing this and putting the clamps on Rhee and Fenty. The Council made a mistake to give Fenty/Rhee so much power, and council members, thankfully, are sane enough to recognize their error.

Posted by: efavorite | May 12, 2009 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Assuming the council calls Rhee’s bluff, I can’t wait until the opening of the school year when the enrollment (let’s say) increases as Rhee projected and she does not have enough teachers to go around for our students, with their “endless potential” who always come first.

Why? Because she decided to cut teacher hiring in favor of playing chicken with the City Council, proving conclusively that she puts adult interests before student interests.

Posted by: efavorite | May 12, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

What about the savings coming from cutting the vice chancellor or whoever he is? You know, the one the Post supported last week in an editorial.
Let him go before the teachers.

Posted by: edlharris | May 12, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

edlharris - good point, but she might find it hard to cut Reinoso - he's the one who recommended her for the job.

Posted by: efavorite | May 12, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Some of you are so incredibly stupid it amazes me...

Rhee doesn't hire and fire Reinoso and if he were let go, his salary wouldn't necessarily go to DCPS. Besides, he is certainly not making $27.5M.

And how can you do a "timely" enrollment audit of your projected numbers. The enrollment audit occurs in October to capture real-time numbers. You have to make a projection of student enrollment in order to create a budget. If she is projecting an increase in students, it would be wise to budget for additional positions. If the students don't turn up by the audit, you can then adjust. But wouldn't you rather there be too many teachers at the start of the year than too few?

Get outta here...

Posted by: GetOuttaHere | May 12, 2009 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Rhee could suggest cuts in areas where she can't actually make them.

Plus no way she could make an accurate projection of 3,000 additional students when numbers have been declining for years and declined by 8,000 just last year.

City council should check her other budget numbers - how much is going to consultants, admin raises and other costs that don't directly benefit kids.

Even supporters like gm123 and maybe even the Post editorial board can see that using the kids as pawns is her first reaction to this. King Solomon would see through it immediately.

Posted by: efavorite | May 13, 2009 7:31 AM | Report abuse

CORRECTION - DCPS enrollment last year declined by about 3,000.

Posted by: efavorite | May 13, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Okay, let me get this straight. She has had all of the money and resources she wants for the past two years that are not verified or accounted for. She cannot answer inquiries from the Council, even treats them like they are an annoyance but now has the time to write impassioned letters? She has countless special assistants all of whom cannot be accounted but wants more money? So, she fired teachers, central office people, principals and assistant principals, the entire IT Department and closed a host of schools but now needs more money? WHAT DOES SHE NEED MORE MONEY FOR?

Posted by: southyrndiva | May 13, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Here’s my favorite Pot/Kettle quote from Rhee’s letter to Gray:
“Finally, your claim that the $27.5 million will be available in October is based on inaccurate information.”

Full letter here:

Posted by: efavorite | May 13, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Somebody please tell me. What astounding achievement has occurred this year in DCPS that will reverse the decades long annual decrease in public school enrollment? What? Please elaborate? Who is doing this math, Nat Ghandi's Tax and Revenue Office?

The Council did the right thing by asking the Mayor and Chancellor to justify how they presume an enrollment increase before providing them with the commisurate funding for that increase. That these details are not of the Mayor's original proposal is quite telling. What is he trying to hide behind those ambiguous numbers.

Way to go Gray and the D.C. Council. DONT CAVE!!!

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | May 13, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

If you look at an earlier Wire piece the actual number of students DCPS lost last year was 4,232. So even if they were to somehow reverse the decline I can't imagine Rhee able to reverse it by almost 75%.

Posted by: adcteacher1 | May 13, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Educational Politics 101 - Cry foul and claim the worst possible scenario will happen to get your funds versus forward thinking and developing effective solutions. Remember never seek solutions, always sell doom and gloom. It's the American way!

Never mind you have $770+ million to educate 45K kids in 123 schools. never mind this is a mere 3% of your budget that you would need to move around. Never mind the average school size based on enrollment and school buildings operating is 360 students per school. Never mind DCPS really has an overall student teacher ratio of 13:1 or 15:1 max. Nevermind, the enrollment and population trends point to continual decline. Nevermind all those unpredictable Special Education costs are not part of the DCPS budget.

Maybe they figure in this economy there are 3000 kids that went to private/ parochial school that will have to return public due to job loss.

DCPS lost 8% of its enrollment after year 1 of Rhee. If DCPS has 45k students, 3K would represent 6% enrollment growth. DCPS would be lucky to stay stable. What success do they have to claim? Everything has been contingent on a new teacher contract or ridding the system of bad teachers and there's been no movement on that front. the academic piece is simply letting Janey's plan work.

Folks Rhee and her people are going to cook the books with the 2009 test scores. just wait and see.

Lastly, prior DCPS administrations with the gall of the school board would buck the council and mayor, and go ahead and hire teachers, plan for the $27M and face the challenge when it arises in October. DCPS has had major layoffs based on that October enrollment audit before.

Posted by: oknow1 | May 14, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

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