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Union: Rhee 'Packing the Bargaining Unit'

The Washington Teachers' Union lawsuit to block last week's layoffs of 266 instructors and staff addresses one of the most bewildering aspects of DCPS' alleged budget shortfall: Why did Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee make 934 new hires in the spring and summer for a school system in which enrollment was expected to grow modestly at best?

The suit, filed late Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court, said the hiring spree was "far in excess of the number of new teachers hired for any school year in the recent past." In prior years, WTU said, "the number of newly hired teachers ranged from 250 to 350."

That range is consistent with D.C. Council testimony earlier this year from school budget expert Mary Levy. According to her analysis, based on DCPS salary schedules, the District averaged 294 new teacher hires between fiscal years 2001 and 2008.

"DCPS knew or should have known that packing the bargaining unit with 934 new teachers who were not needed given the student population for the 2009-2010 school year would result in the need to reduce the number of teachers employed by DCPS," writes WTU attorney Lee W. Jackson.

The union's court pleading offers no specific numbers, saying only that a "substantial number" of the 229 classroom teachers laid off "were among the older, more senior teachers in the WTU bargaining unit, and were not among the 934 new teachers DCPS had just hired during the spring and summer of 2009.

"On these facts, DCPS' attempt to disguise this mass discharge as a 'RIF' [reduction in force] caused by a "budget shortfall" is clearly a pretextual attempt to sidestep the WTU contract and to discharge a substantial number of veteran teachers."

The union suit says that it asked the District to delay the layoffs until an arbitrator could hear the matter, which DCPS declined to do.

WTU also argued that the District should be barred from making the layoffs until another labor dispute--a grievance over the firing of about 270 probationary teachers, or those with two years or less service, in July 2008--is resolved. A District judge ruled in August that the matter could be brought to an arbitrator.

No response yet from the District.

-- Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  October 8, 2009; 2:10 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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Of course Rhee knew she was hiring too many teachers. Her own FAQ document shows that she knew about $20.5M of the overrun, it was all her internal "smoke and mirrors" budgeting, see the second bullet below. She blames the DC Council for the budget cut, but most of the money was under her purview long before the Council actions in June and August. In addition, let's not forget that the Council pledged to try and restore $9.1M of their $20.5M cut before June 2010. $9.1M was a reduction in the Summer School 2010 budget, expenditures that are months away. Finally, $3M of the budget overrun (3rd bullet below) is because of how Rhee handled this, the costs of severance, which are sure to skyrocket with multiple court cases already filed.

Excerpt from the FAQ on DCPS website:

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

Weblink to the FAQ:

Posted by: parentof2redheads | October 8, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

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 only experience Ms. Rhee has is in hiring new teachers.

The below is from the resume of Ms. Rhee.

Led research and publication of two seminal policy studies in urban education: “Unintended Consequences,” detailing how teachers’ union contracts prohibit urban districts from hiring the best teacher talent...

Ms. Rhee only believes in firing veteran teachers and does not believe in unions for teachers.

The DC public school system has been plagued with administrative mismanagement. This is understandable when the only idea of the head of the school system is to get rid of veteran teachers and replace them with inexperienced new teachers.

Ms. Rhee will continue in this process until it is recognized that there is no gain from bringing inexperienced new teachers into a school system where the head of the school system is continuously at warfare to get rid experienced teachers.

The latest firing of five percent of teachers as part of this continuous warfare has brought damage upon large number of students who must wonder at the sudden disappearance of the teachers who they were so recently introduced to as their new teachers.

Ms. Rhee has got her victory at the expense of those students.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

How irnoic that her "seminal policy study" is callled "Unintended Consequences." What about the unintended consequences on students of laying off experienced teachers six weeks into the schol year? She seems to really care nothing about students, eespite her claims.

Posted by: sfteacher | October 8, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

It's called willful mismanagement: It's a violation of the anti-deficiency laws, which is punishable by dismissal and/or prosection.

Posted by: candycane1 | October 9, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I hope the anti-deficiency act angle is explored

Posted by: efavorite | October 12, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

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