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Gray, Rhee Prove They Can Still Work Together

Council chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) has largely backed away from his threat to withhold $27 million from the city school system due to a dispute over enrollment figures.

After a meeting with Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Gray agreed to restore most of the money but still plans to ask the Council to withhold $3.3 million, pending certification by the system its enrollment in public schools will increase by 373 students in the 2009-2010 academic year.

When the Council preliminarily approved the 2010 budget last month, it voted to withhold $27.5 million from the school system because some council members did not believe enrollment projections.

Gray noted that total enrollment, including in the charter schools, dropped from 75,013 during the 1998-1999 school year to 70,044 in the current academic year. The school system is projecting 73,121 charter and public school students next year.

After the Council vote to withold $27 million, Rhee went on the offensive in an unusually public manner. She, along with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), warned the Council's action could result in teacher layoffs.

On Friday, Gray met with Rhee to try to hammer out a compromise. Rhee is now adopting a lighter approach.

"Your ultimate question - what is the source of the projected 3,076 new students next year in DCPS and charter schools? - remains unanswered," Rhee wrote to Gray. But she added "an independent team of researchers" devised the enrollment projections.

"I understand your skepticism that such a large citywide target can be met," Rhee wrote. "Based upon the assumptions we outlined, however, we believe that we have sound evidence and data to suggest that DCPS's enrollment...will increase slightly over last year's."

Instead of withholding $27 million, Gray has included language in the budget, which will be voted on today, calling for the creation of a working group that will "develop a uniform method by which enrollment should be completed."

Rhee suggested a similar approach in her letter to Gray.

By Tim Craig  |  June 2, 2009; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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Comments

Well I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt after he seemingly grew some manly parts. So sad! So sad!

Posted by: candycane1 | June 2, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

So sad that teachers won't be cut? That Rhee wants more money for the schools? I don't get it. The anti-Rhee sentiment is out of control.

Posted by: chelita | June 2, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Chelita,

I don't believe teachers were ever in any danger of being cut due to the withholding of the $27.5m. Once again, Rhee bluffed Gray and he blinked. He was initially correct in demanding that she provide evidence that an additional 3,000+ students would enroll next year, curiously reversing the trend of the past years. And supposed those 3k children don't materialize as planned? What happens to that money then? This just does not pass the smell test. So much for accountability. D.C. voters should be outraged!

Posted by: Now_What_Now | June 2, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Gray caved. So much for him potentially having the tenacity to be Mayor. For me, his is no better than Kwame Brown and his "present" vote for the sitting D.C. Attorney General. Signed, Sealed, Delivered, no vote from me for either of these weaklings.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | June 2, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Yeah chelita. Its like people think Rhee is pocketing the 27 mil and that it wont somehow find its way to the students.

If Rhee is wrong and enrollment is light, the district will have 385 more dollars per pupil. That is over two more dollars per day per student which could easily be spent on upgrading lunch beyond the crud they serve now which no reasonable person would pay a dollar for.

They can effectively triple the quality of nutrition for the students so they are less tired and hungry so teachers can teach them more effectively. Everybody wins. Kids are healthy, they learn better, and teachers make money via pay for performance. Oh wait, on second thought, keep the kids malnourished so the teachers can keep their arguments against merit pay intact.

Yeah, I know I'm exaggerating about the teacher stuff. But an extra 2+ plus dollars to spend on nutrition in a school district where a good portion of a child's daily nutrition is provided in the school via free lunch/breakfast is nothing to scoff at.

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 2, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

makplan,

Do you have some inside line on what the "excess" funds would be used for? Who says it would be used for meals for students? If you're in the tank for Rhee, just say so. Otherwise, your comments amount to nothing more than hyperbole. It's not like the Fenty administration has been so vigilant about the use of taxpayers' money. It's supposed to be about transparency and accountability. It wouldn't hurt you to be a bit more open-minded.

Posted by: Now_What_Now | June 2, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Makplan - it sounds like you've decided that if there is extra $$ it will go for school lunches - how do you know that? Maybe you could suggest that Rhee commit to that idea - that any extra money not needed for increased enrollment should go straight to the kids. maybe the city council could write that in to their agreement.

It still isn't clear when the enrollment numbers are going to be done - this year or next.

and please, Rhee "went on the offensive in an unusually public manner"??

That is her modus operandi - offensive and public.

Posted by: efavorite | June 2, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Well, if Gray won't "sprout a pair," perhaps someone on the council will do so. There's nothing worse than a weak-kneed politician whose bark is worse than his bite. Pitiful!

Posted by: schooletal | June 2, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

"an independent team of researchers" = Mass. Ave. think tankers who have propelled Rhee's one-sided media blitz in an effort to provide a poster child for those wishing to privatize public education.

Posted by: schooletal | June 2, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I think the council should have held the money but mandated it not be cut from local school budgets. Rhee could have cut some of her high priced consultants, if the students appeared they could put the money back in the consultants budgets, if not schools would have extra teachers. There was never anything that prevented the council from putting it into escrow but calling Rhee's bluff but mandating it come out of some other part of the budget. It would have been a good way to force some more funding into the local schools, instead of all these trendy consultants that yell at principals.

Posted by: qaz2 | June 2, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

If almost 5,000 left this year, common sense would suggest that 3000 will not return the next.Parents do have other options. They demonstrated their lack of trust with a mass exit. If her evidence was so strong, all reports that "she" said substantiated her claim would have been sent to the council immediately. Teachers were never in danger. Teachers were used once again and I am grossly disapppointed that Gray backed down just because they had a meeting. The principle of justifying 27 mil doesn't change. As a taxpayer,
I want to know what the 27 mil is for. As a taxpayer, I want to know how these dollars are actually being spent. How much is really going to consultants? So I'll say it again. SO SAD!

Posted by: candycane1 | June 2, 2009 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Unrelated question: why has Tim Craig been covering the Wire the past couple days? Where is Bill Turque?

Posted by: thebandit | June 2, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

When enrollment decreases, the funds don't stay with the students at their respective schools. In fact, not only do the funds go somewhere else, but teachers also go somewhere else. Been there (many times), done that.

Count my elementary school child as one less student in the DCPS system next year as he's headed to a private school. Although his elementary school is one of the best in the city, I can't bear to have him be a guinea pig in the DCPS system any longer.

Posted by: gonzo03 | June 3, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

makplan,

extra funds will NOT go towards school lunches. That is NOT a priority in our failing school system, which has so many other more pressing needs. You sound like maybe a health-conscious person, but your comment shows you are not aware of all the talk about improving the school system that has been going on for the past 2 years.

Posted by: dcpsinsider | June 3, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: janeseven | June 3, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Think about it people, GOOD teachers are hired in JUNE & JULY not in SEPTEMBER or OCTOBER after we find out what the actual enrollment is. Gray is right not to withhold money at this crucial time in the hiring cycle. Hiring good teachers is the best way to improve the quality of education in our school system.

Posted by: cleboy | June 3, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I was just providing an example of what could be done on 2$ a day. I think it is a good use of 2$ a day. Maybe some other people have better uses.

I dont have any inside information. I was just showing how stupid it is to be mad at giving the school district more money.

Peoples' reactions to my post illustrate the lack of understanding and logic that some have here when trying to paint Rhee as the antichrist.

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 3, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

It's Rhee against the Education Bureaucracy and Unions, which oddly care little about actual education.

Posted by: pgr88 | June 3, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

makplan, I agree with you (but would put the dollar sign before the 2, not after it). I also don't get how people could be against giving a school district more money. The hate against Rhee is out of control. To her enemies, and there are many, she can do nothing right. People forget why she's here, not tinkering around the edges and taking little nibbles as she instigates school reform. If DC test scores are some of the lowest in the nation, that indicates something. Some absolutely radical reform is needed in DCPS.

Posted by: chelita | June 3, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I get the feeling Rhee wants every teacher to be a hero. That’s neither sustainable nor realistic. But I’m in the tank with Rhee, because nothing else has worked and for the first time there is progress. The most glaring deficiency in this city is it school system. Give Rhee what she needs. If she fails, come up with a better plan and find someone better to execute. But the track record for this city government hasn’t been good, and I haven’t seen Gray generate any ingenious plans. I can tolerate the corruption and incompetence of the city, but continuing to screw kids out of a future is unacceptable. If my ward council member or at large members won’t give her what she needs, I will actively contribute to their opponents and campaign against them when their seat is up for grabs.

Posted by: J264 | June 3, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

"Your ultimate question - what is the source of the projected 3,076 new students next year in DCPS and charter schools? - remains unanswered," Rhee wrote to Gray.

What a strange situation!

The 3076 new students are a 4 percent increase in students. It is June and if the head of the school district can not explain the increase how can new teachers be hired or there be even a guarantee that there are sufficient classrooms for these additional student?

Should more kindergarten teachers be hired or more middle school teachers hired?

This appears to be the height of incompetence.

Posted by: bsallamack | June 3, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Bsallamack, you can only force some much organization on a chaotic situation. Consider my neighbor whose granddaughter comes to stay for extended periods, during which time the granddaughter's son shows up at school. They don't turn him away. But DCPS doesn't get any warning. I'm willing to bet he's not unique.

Posted by: J264 | June 3, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

J264 - where is the progress? And if you truly think Rhee's plan is not sustainable, why would you support it?

Chelita - certainly radical reform is needed, but that doens't mean that anything radical that's done is right.

What's helpful about going around the country telling people how bad the teachers are here? How does that help educating the kids? What's helpful about threatening to cut teachers if she doesn't get the budget she wants? That's not radical reform -- it's just bullying.

Please name one successful radical reform that was based on bullying (excluding fascist or communist states)

Posted by: efavorite | June 3, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

The budget already reflected this money am I correct? So, when all the principals had their round-table budget discussions wasn't this money already in place.

You go Girrrl!!! you put on those high-heels , red lip-stick and sleeveless dress and you had the Chairman where you wanted him. Heck it worked for your new Mayor in California boyfriend, didn't it!?! Next time talk sexy and he might just restore the remaining 3-million.

Once you go black...you never go back, sweetie!!

Posted by: PowerandPride | June 3, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

efavorite, my child goes to a DC public school. Does yours? Have you seen the test scores? Have you been to a DC public school? Fixes don't have to be permanent to be useful. And what you call bullying a lot of us call business. People who can't do their job should be retrained. If that fails, they should be fired.

Posted by: J264 | June 3, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

J264 writes that there has been progress.
efavorite asks for the evidence.
J264 responds, but doesn't provide evidence.

efavorite 1
J264 0

Posted by: edlharris | June 3, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Chelita, I think that those citizens like you are a bigger part of the problem with DCPS schools and its administration. You seem to think tha throwing money at the problem will somehow solve it. We already spend more money per pupil in the District than any other District in the nation.

You seem to believe that because Rhee's rhetoric is positive and that she positions herself as a reformer that she should not be held accountable for what she proposes. That the council should ignore their role as fiscal watchdogs and allow her to do whatever she wishes unchecked.

I was not impressed with Rhee's proposition that teachers would be fired. In fact, I believe she was using teachers as pawns to get what she wanted. I have no doubt that teachers were in no way threatened.

Rhee is the one who is out of control. Not the citizens. Not the council.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | June 4, 2009 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, edlharris, can you use Google? Search: DCPS and Adequate Yearly Progress AYP. There is improvement. Is Rhee responsible? It’s a mistake to confuse correlation with causation, but ask yourself what changed. I suppose if you just hate the woman, or she threatens your job, information isn’t going to make a difference.

Posted by: J264 | June 4, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

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