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Rhee Gives More Detail on Cuts

Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee issued this statement Wednesday....

Members of the DCPS Community:

Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the DCPS FY10 budget and our recent decision to separate the employment of school staff members in order to balance our budget.

We will continue to update this document with additional information as it becomes available. In particular, we anticipate posting more specific financial and demographic data on Friday, October 9th.

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Michelle Rhee


The Budget Overall

1. It is only six weeks into the new school year. Why are you adjusting school budgets and staffing now?

Each year, DCPS engages in an equalization process. Through this process and like many other school districts, we adjust school budgets to align staffing and other resources to actual student enrollment at each school. The budget of an individual school may increase or decrease depending on the number of students attending and fully registered in that particular school. We do our best to project which schools students will actually attend; however, we do not know until after the school year begins where students actually report. In addition to this annual process, we face a budget shortfall for FY 2010 which began on October 1st. As a result, we needed to reduce many school budgets. Instead of undertaking two separate processes--budget reduction and equalization--we combined these into one in order to minimize the disruption to student learning.

2. What is DCPS' total budget shortfall?

Going into FY 2010, our expenses were $820.5 million, against available funding of $779.5 million. Our budget shortfall for FY 2010 was $43.9 million. The shortfall was caused by:

* summer reductions (in June and August) made by Council--$20.5 million
* additional school-level resources that, in previous years, had been carried on the central office budget--$20.5 million
* costs associated with leave and severance for separated employees--approximately $3 million

3. Why did you hire 900 teachers if you knew you would need to let them go in October?

Preparations for school opening began in January 2009. Preliminary school budgets are routinely developed in February--as they were this year--and submitted to Council as part of the Mayor's proposed FY 2010 budget in March 2009. To ensure that we hire the best possible candidates, we allow principals to hire teachers in the spring. This timing also allows teachers interested in transferring meaningful options to move to other DCPS schools.

Under our agreement with the Washington Teachers Union, this open hiring process can begin as early as April 15th. This year, we began the open hiring process on May 20th. This process continued throughout the summer until the middle of July. On July 31, 2009, we are required by union contract to place in schools all current teachers who do not have positions by that date. 915 of our 934 new teachers had already been hired when the budget was further reduced on August 6th.

4. Why can't DCPS use stimulus funds to save jobs?

We have used stimulus funds to save jobs. Our FY 2010 budget includes nearly $40 million in state stabilization funds. The remaining federal titles funds have restrictions upon their use, and stimulus dollars are not available on an on-going basis. School districts were given clear direction by the U.S. Department of Education to use these funds on one-time expenditures, such as equipment and computer programs, but not to supplement teacher salaries.

School Budgets

5. Did you reduce the budget of every school?

No. The budgets of about 20 schools increased; the majority of these schools had significant increases in student enrollment. Additional per-pupil funds offset the reductions caused by cutting the overall budget and the additional resources assigned to each school.

6. What was the process by which school budgets were reduced?

Each school received an initial budget adjustment that reflected (a) the difference between the school's projected enrollment and its actual enrollment, (b) the decrease in the amount of funding we receive per pupil, and (c) the cost of additional staff members that had been previously carried by central office.

After conferring with their LSRTs and in conjunction with their instructional superintendents, principals developed budget reduction plans for their schools. The plans needed to best meet the school's individual needs. We also tried to maintain, to the maximum extent possible, the comprehensive staffing model as well as the wrap-around services essential for our student's success. The reduction plans could include eliminating vacant positions, or reducing both filled teaching and non-teaching positions and non-personnel spending.

7. What are the school-by-school enrollment numbers?

Download the list of DCPS schools, along with the enrollment that each school projected for the 2009-2010 school year as well as its actual enrollment as of September 17, 2009.


8. Was it absolutely necessary to make these staff reductions?

It was necessary because, coming into FY 2010, DCPS had an extraordinary budget pressure cause by two main factors: (a) the budget reductions made by DC Council, and (b) a number of school-based positions that in prior years, had been covered by the central office budget. In addition, anti-deficiency laws prevent us from budgeting for and carrying staff unless we are able to show resources that support those positions for an entire year. The shortfall this year makes it impossible to do this without reducing positions.

9. How many staff members were released?

District-wide, 388 employees were separated. Separation notices were delivered to affected employees. Consistent with past practice, affected employees were immediately placed on paid administrative leave until their employment is separated next month. They were provided with important information regarding severance, health benefits and other meaningful assistance in order to ease this difficult transition.

10. Did you target veteran teachers?

Absolutely not. This is rumor and completely unsubstantiated. Such a practice is not only illegal but morally reprehensible. In addition, since many, many thousands of DCPS students benefit from being skillfully taught by veteran teachers, it would be ill-advised for us to ever take such an action.

* The percentage of staff members over age 40 (a protected class) separated last week mirrors almost exactly the percentage of veterans within the DCPS work force.
* Employees with three or fewer years of experience are more heavily represented in the pool of separated staff members than they are among total number of DCPS staff.

NOTE: Further specific demographic information will be posted here on Friday.

11. How were the decisions made about which people to separate?

Most often, RIFs adhere to the "last hired, first fired" formula, and length of service is the only criteria used to make those decisions. We all know that, while we have many fine veteran teachers (see question 10), there is not always a direct correlation between teacher effectiveness and years of service. So there was a quality element in the criteria that principals used to make separation determinations.

If the school's budget reduction plan included the elimination of a filled position, a reduction in force was utilized to determine whose employment was terminated. Pursuant to DC law, all employees were rated on the following four factors: 1) the needs of the school; 2) relevant, significant contributions and performance of staff member; 3) relevant supplemental experience demonstrated on the job, and 4) length of creditable service. Principals had to explain their ratings on the first three factors. The fourth factor was calculated by the DCPS Office of Human Resources. These ratings then determined the ranking for reduction in force decisions.

12. Did every school lose staff members?

No. Sixty percent (60%) of schools lost either one staff member or no staff member. Eighty percent (80%) of schools lost two or staff members. See chart below:

   # of Teachers Separated 	# of Schools 
0 39
1 37
2 26
3 8
4 6
5+ 12

We have worked--and will continue to do so--with individual schools to ensure that parents and guardians are able to talk to the principals of their children's schools in order to better understand how their school has been impacted.

13. Is it true that police escorted all separated staff out of their buildings?

No. This is rumor. Principals proceeded with the separations according to a very clear set of protocols specifically designed to avoid turmoil and disruption. There were a few isolated instances in which separated employees were upset and confrontational (understandably so). In those few instances, we requested security support to ensure the safety of all present.

14. What about other staff members? Did schools lose custodians, office workers and other positions?

Yes. The breakdown is as follows:


 Employee Group 	          # of Staff Separated
Teachers 229
Custodial Staff 19
Office Staff 59
Student Support Staff 81
Total 388

By Washington Post editors  |  October 7, 2009; 3:11 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque  
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"13. Is it true that police escorted all separated staff out of their buildings?"

No, not ALL separated staff were escorted out, just some of them. Posing the wrong question allows Rhee to give a misleading answer. Watch her speech carefully for this sort of maneuver - it's her specialty.

Posted by: efavorite | October 7, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Public humiliation rests at the high end of Michelle Rhee's capacity for eductional leadership. Her hiring and tenure as the Chancellor amounts to a massive Madoff-like fraud perpetrated on the people of the District. The caper required a truckload of Bill Gates' money, a quisling in the mayor's office, and the power of the Post and Jay Mathews to manufacture a Michelle Rhee fairy-tale for public consumption. Ultimately, the Time cover picture will stand as a small tragi-comic monument to the damage done by this criminal conspiracy.

Ms. Rhee will be taking her broom with her soon. A while back the Chancellor even foreshadowed the hara-kiri she was contemplating and is in the middle of now. She told Mathews because she wasn't speaking to Mr. Turque at the time, "If I go down at the end of the day because I didn't play the political game right, that's okay with me," she said. "At least when you're making decisions that you believe are in the best interests of kids, you may not win in the end, but at least you can operate with a good conscience."

Lacking any discernible qualifications, her shocking appointment as D.C. Chancellor, can be understood only when you realize that Michelle Rhee was brought in to create chaos at every turn and inflict maximum damage on the district's public schools and its children. The forces of privatization behind this needed a cultist (Teach For America, New Teacher Project) and true believer in the job. Anyone else would have asked questions and refused to implement destructive or absurd policies. They could not be counted on to mindlessly take a sledgehammer to D.C.'s schools. The havoc that Rhee is now causing is no accident. It was the plan!

Yes Linda, that picture and the whole Time magazine profile provides great insight into Rhee's character and true mission. In it she denigrates every other adult in the D.C. school system including her staff. She mocks teachers that dare speak of building an emotional connection with their students. She clearly and coldly exploits a true leader at Anacostia High, young Mr. Rhodes, to advance her agenda. She seems to have no use for children being nurtured emotionally in the classroom. Just teach them to read for the test! And make sure there's no poetry involved!

Posted by: natturner | October 7, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee is an equivocator of the highest order. (Thank you, Councilman Barry, for your boldness.) I suspect she thinks if she tells a life enough times, people will believe it. Sorry, not this time.

One thing's for certain, she (and her boss) are sticking with their motto: Deflect, Delay, Deny!

Posted by: schooletal | October 7, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

*tells a lie*

Posted by: schooletal | October 7, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

During my many years as a teacher I was laid off twice. Both times the other teachers and I were prepared for this possibility several weeks in advance. On the day of the layoff, I received a compassionately worded registered letter at my home. This gave me the opportunity to grieve in private. As everyone knows, losing a job is a devastating life event. Contrary to the remarks of some writers, most of us understand the inevitability of layoffs, especially at this time. It is the way that it was handled that I am objecting to.

The fact that Ms. Rhee allowed teachers to be dismissed in this manner demonstrates gross incompetence and indifference to the feelings of children and teachers. I'm 3000 miles away in CA but I still find it very upsetting to think that staff and students would be treated in this way in our nation's capital. This is a national disgrace and I am appalled.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 7, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Michelle,stop hiding behind your e-mails, your laptop and your Blackberry or iphone.

Speak directly to your employees and the children you serve. If you truly believe last Friday's layoffs were appropriate and adequately handled, then face the people yourself instead of submitting a written document that has been prepared 5 days after the fact. People will think you had too much time to come up with a lodgical excuse (lie). You're not dealing with stupid people. They are educators with a pupose.

Your friend described you as not being a "touchy-feelly" person. I've never known an educator that didn't like face-to-face contact or was not tuned in to the feelings of others.

Just as you speak directly into the cameras and the news reporters' mics, speak to your employees. Request the National Guard if you want, just as you did for a football game last week, but talk to your people. By-the-way, how much did the Guard cost us? Whose budget did it come from?

I know you're not scared. Anyone described as tough talking, tough decision maker, and tough reformer makes you a street fighter. Go for it! Stand tall, face you subjects and convince them you are right and they are wrong. I DARE YOU!

Posted by: shank2sb | October 7, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Save it for court and the council hearings! Hey Rhee, Pull up fox 5 news and watch Noel Cyrus. He is just one of your victims. There are plenty more, two years worth. In the end you'll be smashed just like the bee you ate.

Posted by: candycane1 | October 7, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

It is surprising that Ms. Rhee is the head of the DC public school district.

Ms. Rhee has only three years of actual teaching experience.

Ms. Rhee used this 3 years of experience to start and act as head of the "New Teacher Project" that was mainly concerned with advising on the hiring of teachers.

Ms. Rhee has absolutely no school administrative experience and without this experience she would not be qualified for the position of Principal in the DC district.

The background of Ms. Rhee would be suitable for a deputy school administrator responsible for teacher hiring.

There has been a great deal of fanfare about the actions of Ms. Rhee but very little mention that a head of very large public school system, now administers that system without any prior school administrative experience.

Ms. Rhee may fervently believe in young and energetic teachers but her position is to administer a large public school system that during her tenure has had significant occurrences of mismanagement.

Simply on experience, Ms. Rhee is not qualified to be head public school administrator of a large public school system.

Resume from:

Posted by: bsallamack | October 7, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Whew! Ms. Rhee has a Jedi-like mastery of spin. I am dizzy just reading it. Yowza. Her blood runs cold.
Has anyone told her that "SEPARATED STAFF BY EMPLOYEE GROUP" are actual real live human beings -people with families and financial responsibilities to meet? Folks so near to retirement but now...? Some so new to their careers that on a teacher's salary a savings account is just pie in the sky. Others after only working for 4 weeks aren't even eligible for unemployment.
The implications of her capriciousness and the reverberations of her actions will be felt far and city-wide

Posted by: 2belinda | October 7, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I am so impressed by the words of all the posters here, especially you, shank2sb, for pointing out that Rhee has talked to the press but not to her constituents.

Do you suppose she'll be at City Hall tomorrow? ready to take the mike and calm the crowds? And Fenty -- where will he be?

Posted by: efavorite | October 7, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

From the comments posted I can see why DCPS is probably the worst school system on the planet. I have watched from a distance for over 25 years now. I have tutored several children from the District school system and they have told me horror stories of how the school system has let them down. As an African American man I am appalled at the institutional resistance to change..any change, and for what, so the system can continue in the same manner? - like the last 25 years. Its the next generation of black youth that will suffer and I am sick of it, who's interests are being served by keeping the system "status quo" here, the students? I think not!

Posted by: audiman | October 7, 2009 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Answer to question 2, what caused shortfall?

Council: $20.5 M
Rhee's mismanagment, moving funds between Central and Schools: $20.5M
Costs associated with mismanagement (underestimated likely because the lawsuits have started): $3M

According to her own answer, well over half the shortfall is due to her own "smoke and mirrors" budgeting, moving funds between Central and Schools. This should have been addressed before hiring 900 new teachers!

Posted by: parentof2redheads | October 7, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

She stated elsewhere that cuts were made in the central office first. Looks like those cuts were mostly pushing expenses onto the individual schools and then saying it is someone else's fault that they don't have the funding for all their schools. I am pretty tired of her constant prevaricating. I am curious as to when the Post editorial board is going to look behind the curtain and realize she is all smoke and mirrors, at best.

Posted by: qazqaz | October 7, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Continuing my comment above, let's dig into the $20.5M of budget shortfall that is at the Council's doorstep. $9.1M is for summer school beginning in June 2010, and the Council has committed to try to restore that funding. The other two portions were an adjustment agreed to by Rhee in June (3.5M), and not granting an inflationary adjustment ($8.1M). So, even if you accept those "cuts" as real, of the budget shortfall detailed by Rhee in her FAQ, only 26% is due to the Council. (I am not counting the $9.1M the system should not even be experiencing yet because we're not spending for summer school. Rhee likely has another smoke and mirrors budget game up her sleeve, so needs to count summer school funds already.)

Yet, when Rhee is interviewed by NPR about the need for cuts, her first reason is the Council cutbacks????? Sounding like not the whole truth, at all, (aka a liar per Councilmember Barry) to me!

As Councilchair Gray said in his Sept 17 press release, "The $20.7 million ($3.5 million + $8.1 million + $9.1 million) the Fenty Administration alleges the Council "cut" is 2.7 percent of the DCPS FY 10 budget - hardly a substantial sum that has to be recouped by firing teachers. . . . While these teacher dismissals are within the Mayor's purview, the Council strenuously disagrees with the unilateral decision to reduce the teacher workforce and cut local school budgets, and will not allow the Mayor and Chancellor to place the blame for these decisions at the Council's doorstep."

Posted by: parentof2redheads | October 7, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee, don't try and clean it up now, your lies and budgetary mismanagement will become truthfully exposed sooner rather than later. Too late to try and fight the dogs back now, they are already out of the cage.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | October 7, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Lafayette, where the Fenty boys attend (likely by special exception granted by Rhee and not via out of bounds lottery like the rest of us lowly citizens) is a school that will receive additional funding after this round of cuts. Web link and quotation from their newsletter below.

And while we are certainly full, our classes still are no bigger than 25 in any grade. We continue to be not just the largest elementary school in DCPS but one of the largest schools overall. The result of all this is that while many schools are facing severe budget issues right now, afayette really is not. Those additional students cushioned the effect of any budget cuts other schools may be undergoing. We are actually in line to receive some limited additional funding.

Posted by: parentof2redheads | October 7, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Lafayette, where the Fenty boys attend (likely by special exception granted by Rhee and not via out of bounds lottery like the rest of us lowly citizens) is a school that will receive additional funding after this round of cuts. Web link and quotation from their newsletter below.

And while we are certainly full, our classes still are no bigger than 25 in any grade. We continue to be not just the largest elementary school in DCPS but one of the largest schools overall. The result of all this is that while many schools are facing severe budget issues right now, afayette really is not. Those additional students cushioned the effect of any budget cuts other schools may be undergoing. We are actually in line to receive some limited additional funding.

Posted by: parentof2redheads | October 7, 2009 10:07 PM | Report abuse

efavorite: To answer your questions, Fenty will probably be anywhere but near the Wilson building - check his schedule on the DC Gov. Web-page.

Rhee on the other hand, absolutely not. She will be held up on the 9Th floor of 825 or attending her own press conference somewhere other than City Hall. It will most likely be at some undisclosed location. Is her schedule still posted on the DCPS web-page?

Audiman: What is your problem? No one is resistent to change, it is how the RHEEREFORM is being carried out - the process and the fairness of it all. We are talking about people not cattle. Have you been reading some of the testimonies of the insiders? Look into the light and see the jewels and the diamonds in the rough.

We all agree bad teachers have no place in the classroom, however there is a process to eliminate them. Laws are involved here and they are not being followed. It's criminal what has taken place.

Have you seen the children and listened to their concerns regarding last Friday's events. It is wonderful that you have given time to several students, but that does not make you totally knoweledgeable about the day-to-day operations and hired staff in the DC schools. You, like many other misinformed people, only want to speak about the negative(hear say)but I can assure you there are some wonderful programs,outstanding teachers, parents and administrators that drive the system. It is called experience. It is unfortunate that Rhee does not get it.

Ms. Rhee had such an awfull year her first year teaching, but no one fired her butt. They just put her in a classroom with an experienced teacher to help calm her hives her father said she came home with everyday. She worked two years with a middle aged African American female teacher. My guess is the principal at that school did not want to have another year of discipline issues and loss of instuctional time in her classroom. The administration probably spent too much time giving attention to her undisciplined classroom. So, putting her with an experienced teacher gave the administrators and children relief from Ms Rhee's whoes. However, it was instructional support which she has not adequately given to her own teachers.

The posters are still waiting for proof of what she did to accelerate the academics of the under achieving students she had in Baltimore. Have you read anywhere what she specifically did backed by test results?

Join the struggle audiman. Don't continue to be misinformed. "knowledge is Power"

Posted by: shank2sb | October 7, 2009 10:33 PM | Report abuse

audiman says, "who's interests are being served by keeping the system "status quo" here, the students? I think not!"

Who says anyone wants to keep the system status quo. It's too late for that anyhow. I want to stop the destruction so the remodeling job won't be so difficult.

Posted by: efavorite | October 7, 2009 10:33 PM | Report abuse

All I have heard for 25 years is "this is not fair", "that is not fair" well, life is not fair, grow up! I come from the corporate world, this happens everyday. I have watched administration after administration be blocked by the "its not fair" crowd. Change is not fair, embrace it, live it, - I can only share my experiences of those two young men (from different high schools) I tutored who today are still waiting for the change, who could not do simple math, or tell time on a clock without numbers. It hurts me to my core to watch so many talented black youth over the last 25 years not get the education they deserve (especially black men - my cause) and to make matters worst in a "black run" institution. I am pissed, and you should be too! And I will embrace anyone who says "enough" and we are going to change.

Posted by: audiman | October 8, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

If it ain't her you will be against the next person, and the next, and the next, and the next - face it, be introspective, be honest with yourselves.

Posted by: audiman | October 8, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

"And I will embrace anyone who says "enough" and we are going to change."

That explains a lot. Just "anyone" can't make the kind of changes needed, and anyone who thinks that is thinking very simplistically.

Posted by: efavorite | October 8, 2009 7:07 AM | Report abuse

efavorite says "Just "anyone" can't make the kind of changes needed" - and of course, why it's so simple, why didn't I think of that? YOU know what those changes are, and have YOU have known for 25 years! And YOU know who can do it, right? - well 25 years tells me you don't!

Posted by: audiman | October 8, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Linda/Retired Teacher;

I'm in California too and am glad someone else on the west coast is appalled by what's happening in D.C. I am also deeply saddened. I wish I could fly out there and demonstrate with them.

Posted by: sfteacher | October 8, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse


Yes, I too had a strong urge to fly to DC to show support for these teachers. If the situation isn't corrected soon, we might still get the opportunity. Maybe we'll meet on the plane!

Good people across our country will not stand for our teachers being disrespected and mistreated. This is not the American way. We've all just had a refresher course on the importance of checks and balances as well as the dangers of demagoguery. We've also been reminded, once again, that intelligence and character don't necessarily go together.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 8, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

I can't emphasize enough of what shank2sb said..."Speak directly to your employees and the children you serve." You can implement the best plan in the world, but if you don't implement it with adequate Organizational Change Management (as we call it in the corporate world), the plan will fail even worse than what you started with.

Posted by: acharan786 | October 9, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

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