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Low-income schools take brunt of cuts

The Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) has extracted some interesting details from DCPS on the Oct. 2 layoffs. Turns out that nearly 70 percent of the staff reductions came from its highest-need schools.

Based on data supplied by DCPS, the union found that 24.3 percent of the 267 layoffs (64 teachers and staff) came from Ward 8 schools; 18.4 percent (49) from Ward 7; 7.9 percent (21) from Ward 6, and 18.7 percent (50) from Ward 5.

DCPS says the numbers are not as out of line as they appear, considering that 58 percent of its students are in Wards 5 through 8. Spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway also said that nearly 40 of the 53 District schools that did not meet enrollment targets were in those wards. Those under enrolled schools were the most likely to cut spending by reducing staff.

WTU also reports that among the dismissed teachers and staff were 39 special education instructors, a surprisingly high number given the District's stated intention of improving instruction for its special needs kids. Calloway said part of the push to reform special ed was to have enough teachers on hand in the event the District was able to bring back during the school year some of the more than 3,000 students it has in private facilities. They were placed outside the system because DCPS has historically been unable to meet their needs.

"When faced with the unexpected budget pressure we did allow principals to eliminate those special education positions if they did not have the special education student enrollment to support them," Calloway said in an e-mail.

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  October 22, 2009; 12:44 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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Next: WTU amends lawsuit, Nickles says 'baloney'


Ok, I'm not a math whiz, so perhaps someone can help me with this:

Seems that instead of RIFing, DCPS could have saved a lot more money by taking some speced kids out of expensive private placement and putting them in a classroom with a qualified teacher.

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Interesting! Ballou and Wilson usually have high populations. How many teachers did Wilson lose? What was the difference in their enrollment targets?

Secondly, if special needs children are returning from some of the private placements, then the mandatory ratio of student/teacher would be impacted. How then is 39 RIF'd special education teachers even logical? Am I to understand that students were "not" returned from any private placements?

How may special education students are no longer in DCPS and why? ie:Transferred out? Graduated?

39 is a significant number of special education teachers. With Nickles arguing to be released from court oversight, will the system go back to missing timelines and will Blackman /Jones haunt again? (courts please re-think)

Were any of the special education teachers who were RIF'd, teachers of students that are in a contained learning environment?

Posted by: candycane1 | October 22, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

candycane, let's go back to another issue. How many of these kids in NW schools are out of boundary kids? Can the Wilson-Murch-Janney-Eaton boundaries support the staffing in place at these schools. only because so many of these kids come from outside the neighborhood do the Wilson's and other have their existing enrollment levels.

Posted by: oknow1 | October 22, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

You're right, oknow, about the out of boudary kids. What's your point?

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Oknow: That's a good question. There are many students who are out of boundry. Right now I can't speak on it not knowing the results of the enrollment audit or the projected enrollment they had for the year. I will inquire about it.

Posted by: candycane1 | October 22, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

This is also yet another threat to neighborhood schools. I think folks need to understand the fundamentals of how DCPS enrollment trends benefit those schools without major reductions. if wilson had so called enrollment to justify limited cuts, how many of those kids are out of boundary kids? Those NW schools benefit financially from out of boundary enrollment. So on top of the ward 7 or 8 cuts, the neighborhood schools are further weakened. folks need to wake up. in the end, poor areas will have what will equate to a housing project/section 8 like experiment to educate the kids. meanwhile, well to do area will have Cadillac schools.

Posted by: oknow1 | October 22, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

For some reason my screen took over an hour to refresh, so i assumed my prior post did not register. So I apologize for the repeat of info.

When I worked for DCPS, I will always remember William Lockridge pointing out that close to 40% of the students at Wilson and Deal were out of boundary. I also remember the trend for certain NW communities and parts of Capitol Hill was there was a significant drop off after 3rd grade and 6th grade. Meaning the school age population within those boundaries leave public school after elementary school.

The key point is the neighborhood boundary does not support the staffing and services that Wilson and other schools enjoy. Schools suggest as Anacostia, Ballou, or Dunbar will continue to be under served and neglected. This damage will not be repaired.

Posted by: oknow1 | October 22, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

And DCPS admin was going to bring the Accotink kids back.

Posted by: edlharris | October 22, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

then we need to change the mindset - right - so parents in ward 7-8 will want to keep their kids in the neighborhood school.

It that works, then Wilson will be under-enrolled, by a lot, in which case another mindset change is needed -- to get the many kids who live in ward 3 to go to public school instead of private school.

Ok, so how do we do that?

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Someone needs to check the accuracy of the numbers. It sounds to me like Rhee is using the same bogus criteria she used to close most of the schools in predominantly black, predominantly poor neighborhoods in 2007. I know for a fact some schools West of the Park (e.g., Hyde, Eaton, and maybe Stoddert) were significantly underenrolled, but they were NOT closed. Why? Because the affluent, mostly white, well-educated parents run those schools and support them financially. I'm also willing to bet that WOP schools are staffed with more non-black educators than those in wards 5 - 8.

So it's as much a class issue as it is a race issue. Prove me wrong.

Posted by: schooletal | October 22, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

And another thing . . .

It's counterintuitive to think that the best way to serve those "Highest-Need" schools was to cut the level of support. These schools should have the smallest class sizes, greatest building-level support, and most wrap-around services of all. I am even more convinced with each revelation that this is part of Rhee's nefarious scheme to undermine the chance for success of the children in these schools, despite her paper-thin protestations to the contrary.

Posted by: schooletal | October 22, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

On a related subject, I just found this blog

On "Michelle Rhee's Washington education Miracle"

Don't worry, it's satire.

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

No surprise here. The low-end students (and their parents) always take it in the shorts. That's one reason we are getting beaten by the rest of the world in manufacturing and finance. We DON'T want to educate eveyone, only those with privilege.
I thought this might end after WWII, but it's only gotten worse.I'm so saddeded by our country's lack of effort to educate all (from K through graduate school).

Posted by: diamond2 | October 23, 2009 12:30 AM | Report abuse

"Someone needs to check the accuracy of the numbers. It sounds to me like Rhee is using the same bogus criteria she used to close most of the schools in predominantly black, predominantly poor neighborhoods in 2007. I know for a fact some schools West of the Park (e.g., Hyde, Eaton, and maybe Stoddert) were significantly underenrolled, but they were NOT closed. Why? Because the affluent, mostly white, well-educated parents run those schools and support them financially. I'm also willing to bet that WOP schools are staffed with more non-black educators than those in wards 5 - 8."

You try putting a white educator in those wards and see what happens - you can't have it both ways when you play the race card.

Posted by: RL67 | October 23, 2009 1:51 AM | Report abuse

The union should be obtaining the ages and length of service of the teachers fired. They should be able to obtain this from their members.

This is the type of information they should be providing to the Washington Post and their lawyers.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 23, 2009 2:34 AM | Report abuse

@schooletal and oknow1

I am a parent of an out of boundary student at a Upper NW elem school. I sent my child there in large part because of the challenges of poorly behaving children and low parental involvement at our previous school. If you put a disproportionate (i.e. not based on enrollment) amount of money into "Highest need" schools, there is less for the others. Often those parents will respond by pulling out their kids and leaving the overall system with less parental involvment and fewer of the better prepared students. This make the overal sytem worse and lowers the funding for the overall system. Eliminating the out of boundary system will result in the same thing, as parents who use OOB are proavtive by definition and thus more likely to takes measures such as leaving the system or moving out of DC.

Posted by: leeindc1 | October 23, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

One of the biggest problems with DCPS is that school funding is based on tax brackets. Schools in wealthier districts get more money. All students should have access to the same basic opportunities and quality facilities. Seems to me that since the layoffs already were a part of a hidden agenda, perhaps Fenty is trying to pave the way for futher development in SE. After all, he was selling off underused DCPS properties to developers and he just handed out a boat load of contracts to more of his friends.

Posted by: lidiworks1 | October 23, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse point exactly between Wilson and Ballou. Just last night it was extolled to some of us at a meeting that Wilson has found the "right mix" between the administration, staff, parents and teachers at Wilson. Hence, the code wording of the "right mix" pretty much explained that a RIF was not necessary at Wilson. Now let's take Ballou, I am not sure that the "right mix" is not there at Ballou, so a RIF was probably necessary. Thereto, the right mix was also an issue at those schools such as McKinley and Woodson. Has anyone aske the question...what about Eastern...there experiencing the Chancellor's phase-out the likelihood of losing teachers is pretty much perpetual...but I guess the need to RIF teachers as well as phasing out teachers was an expedient measure?

All in all the "right mix" was probably in place at Ellington, Bell, Banneker, Phelps, and SWW therefore the RIF's were less impactful....or were they?

How did the schools make out....when they were given "a new mix" [management team] as in Coolidge, Anacostia and Dunbar? I would think that if everyone just reapplied for their jobs and was subsequently rehired with these management teams and then in turn were RIF...almost gives credence to that saying of "thanks but no thanks."

Posted by: PowerandPride | October 23, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

If anybody caught loose lips today, Americans for Tax Reform is pushing for supporters to show up at the hearing scheduled for Rhee on the 29th

Posted by: candycane1 | October 23, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

What is so interesting about under-enrolled schools having to cut more positions? Seems completely logical if you are looking at teacher/student ratios.

Posted by: trace1 | October 23, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse


You're wrong. School funding in DC is most definitely NOT based on tax brackets. It is a per-pupil formula.

The reason schools in upper NW have more money is because it is raised from private sources by the parents, sometimes to the tune of 80k per year or more.

Posted by: trace1 | October 23, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Trace1, you are mostly right. However some schools in upper NW raise $500k per year. Many raise $250K. It's absolutely staggering, even in DCPS, how unfair the bottom line really is...

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | October 23, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse


I don't know of any DCPS school that raises $500k per year. Can you cite one?

I do know of private schools that get to those numbers, but never heard of a public school.

I will say that the overenrolled Ward 3 schools always felt that the schools across the park got MORE staff (and more DC tax dollars) than they did, if you are talking about staff/student ratio. Some of those schools only had a couple of hundred kids, if that. Compare to Murch, with an enrollment of over 500 -- until Rhee, it only had one principal, no assistants - same as a school with 200 kids. The staffing needed to be equalized -- although I am not defending how the cuts were accomplished.

Posted by: trace1 | October 23, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I happen to have the Lafayette HSA 990 on my desk. In a 4 year period, they brought in over $1.2 million. The high for the period (2003-2006) was $361,000 (2006). More current numbers are not available, but I was told by a parent at that school, that they had reason to believe they could bring in $500K last year.

If you go to guidestar, you can pick through the PTA's 990 and take a look. Yes, $500k might be the high side, but these are schools that sell $30K in Sally Foster giftwrap.

It's a whole different world from my child's school.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | October 23, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Efavorite: I don't know the exact answer. however, the funding scenario which supposedly supports choice eliminates equity in my view. AS DCPS allows the dollars to follow the kids, DCPS needs to increase it funding to support under performing students and schools. Rhee can use her test results to provide additional reading and math support to such students/schools. The problem is with this funding model low performing students do not qualify for additional funding. It ignores the base inequity within the school system that some students need additional academic resources.

Posted by: oknow1 | October 23, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Just to clarify on the funding issue: the per pupil amount is higher for special ed and ELL students.

Posted by: trace1 | October 23, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

RL67 wrote:

"You try putting a white educator in those wards and see what happens - you can't have it both ways when you play the race card."

First of all, I didn't make race an issue, rhee did. (Wait until the EEOC findings are revealed.) Don't kill the messenger. I'm just reporting what I know . . . not what I heard.

Second, I work in more than one of the schools in the affected wards. None (NOT 1) of the white educators was RIF'd. (Not that I am suggesting they should have been terminated.)

I guess there goes your argument, huh?

Posted by: schooletal | October 23, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse


I fully understand and am sympathetic to your concerns. I work in some of the schools you "escaped from" and am well aware of the poor behavior and low parental involvement. If you read some of the subsequent posts, you'll see that most of the WoP schools have many well-heeled connections. So, the likelihood that your child's school will be adversely impacted is nil. I just want "the least of these" to have the same opportunities and support as their West of the Park counterparts.

Posted by: schooletal | October 23, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm normally sceptical of conspiracy theories, but at work here is the destruction of public education and a fascist regime controlling the schools. Fascist regimes come to power during times of turmoil to restore order. This is accomplished largely by instilling fear and eliminating non-conformist. There is absolute power at the head. It's no secret that private companies and the business community benefit when schools fail, and are forced to undergo restructuring by private organizations. The schools that were targeted needed the most and were hit the hardest. How can this be justified?

Posted by: wisdomseeker1 | October 24, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Couldn't have said (written) it better myself, wisdomseeker1. You hit the nail on the head!

Posted by: schooletal | October 24, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

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