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WTU Loses Court Challenge To Layoffs

A D.C. Superior Court judge has ruled against a bid by the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) to roll back the Oct. 2 layoffs of 266 DCPS teachers and staff.

In an opinion issued late Tuesday morning, Judge Judith Bartnoff said WTU had failed to prove any of its core arguments against Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's decision to conduct a RIF (reduction in force) due to a $43.9 million budget shortfall. She said that given the District's financial situation, a reversal of the layoffs would force Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty to make other cuts in the DCPS, harming the public interest.

"The District asserts, and the plaintiff has not disputed, that in that event, other staff would be subject to a RIF--even further into the school year--or programs that have been deemed essential would have to be cut," Bartnoff wrote. "Such an action would not benefit DCPS, its teachers, students or staff, or the wider District of Columbia community."

No word yet on whether WTU plans to appeal.

The union argued that the RIF was not a budget-driven layoff but an illegal mass firing, and that the shortfall cited by Rhee was a sham and a pretext for dumping older teachers. As a mass firing, WTU contended, the action was subject to arbitration under the District's collective bargaining agreement with the WTU.

The union charged that Rhee, in essence, went on an illegal hiring spree over the spring and summer, bringing more 900 new teachers on board knowing that she would need to make cuts later.

But Bartnoff said the union failed to provide any substantive evidence that DCPS packed the system with teachers it could not pay for until the D.C. Council cut its 2010 budget by $21 million on July 31. In contrast, she singled out Rhee's chief of staff, Lisa Ruda, as "a very credible witness" in her testimony on DCPS' budget problems after the council cut.

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  November 24, 2009; 1:10 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque,Education  
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Time for a class action lawsuit teachers.


Posted by: southyrndiva | November 24, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Southern Diva, the judge already ruled here, the WTU lost and the judge's rule is set as law. I take it you want to overturn the judge's ruling? Can you do that using a Class Action lawsuit? Or are you trying to get damages for a firing that a judge has already declared is right and legal?

and why don't you put "teachers" in quotes?

Posted by: bbcrock | November 24, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

You are so right! The DC Teachers should not give up!! During the City Council hearings it came out that money was moved to make it look like a bigger deficit than it was. I say fight all the way to the Supreme Court if you have to.

Posted by: raspberry | November 24, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Finally, a bright spot in the corrupt good ole boy DC government. The union's reign over DC may finally be coming to an end. The WTU and their culture of protecting substandard failing teachers have played a significant role in destroying the education quality in DC.

Finally, DC gets someone (Rhee) who actually puts the children first, and not the special interests (Unions), and they try to make a scapegoat of her and run her out of town. It's very troubling to see the political games the council and the WTU are playing which, if Rhee is removed, will be at the expense of the DC children. DC Children who, as I see it, have enough going against them already.

Everyone preaches for "CHANGE," well it has come DC. Granted they have a long way to go, DC schools are finally showing some improvement, but council and the unions want to go back to the failing, literally, status quo that DC schools once were. Get over yourselves and practice the "CHANGE" you preach.

Posted by: RMahoney01 | November 24, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Once again people are talking and don't have all the facts. Yes we will continue to fight, and we will win because what Michelle Rhee did was illegal. There was no budget crisis, therefore no RIF. It will cost the city millions of our tax money. Pay attenetion and read below the Post headlines.

Posted by: reneeinc | November 24, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand a budget and they are still hiring. December 2 is scheduled for teacher recruitment. hmmm

Posted by: candycane1 | November 24, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

RMahoney - all "change" is not good change, especially when illegal actions occur in the process.

We want positive and good change! Simply changing teachers will not change schools. It's the same as when they told us wearing uniforms will decrease violence in schools - i'm here to tell you, there's more violence now than there was before students wore uniforms.

Get to the root of the problem then work toward a solution. It would help to be more likeable in the process. Rhee's attitude alone is what makes her disliked by many.

Ultimately you reap what you sow...God has a way of inflicting his own Karma...

Posted by: missboo | November 24, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Go to the examiner and read the latest.

Posted by: candycane1 | November 24, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Exactly, they have been hiring teachers since the RIF. If there was a real budget crisis don't you think a hiring freeze would be a good idea.
Understand that the ruling today was against the injunction. The Union did not prove it's case. It does not mean that the RIF was legal and teachers still have other options.
What you dont know is that over 30 teachers got their job back last week after being wrongfuly terminiated last June. The city is now responsible for making those people whole. (back pay and beinfits). So before you get happy about what Rhee is doing look at the long term effects of her not doing it legaly.

Posted by: reneeinc | November 24, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

So, what was the point again for Noel Welpman's, departure? He might as well have stayed and continued with falsely declaring a "budget stess" in conjunction with the Chancellor. What a waist of time and effort spent trying to retore wholeness to the 266 + employees that have been wronged by a women who really does not have the children's best interest at heart.

It is sad that this city has come to this, allowing an "inexperienced traveling road show of an educator" to lead the charge for reform and education in our city. We deserve so much more than a Michelle Rhee, the Grinch that stole Christmas.

Posted by: shank2sb | November 24, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

@bbcrock: let me educate you. A class action lawsuit is filed when people are treated disparately across the board. Although this might be difficult to believe, judges' decisions can and in DC are often appealed all of the way to the Supreme Court. As to putting teachers in quotes, I'm simply not as disrespectful as you are.

Do not attempt to use this forum as a way to attack me or the comments I make. It does state in the rules that reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site. Kindly keep your venom to yourself.

Moving on with free speech guaranteed even in the DC that Fenty built ...

What Rhee has done in terms of manufacturing a RIF in order to fire people so she could keep the 900+ teachers she hired during her summer spree seems almost as underhanded as covering Johnson's misdeeds and tampering with a federal investigation. It is highly unfortunate that Noah Wepman lost his job to cover for her. She conspired to manufacture a RIF and threw Wepman under the bus of her actions.

As for putting children first, that certainly did not happen when Rhee failed to report that one of those CHILDREN had said Kevin Johnson touched her inappropriately. It also certainly did not appear to be children first when it was not reported that KJ tried to pay a young lady one thousand dollars to keep her quiet.

Putting children first doesn't mean you just fire people to attempt to purport that you have an education plan. It means she should rise to the occasion of a job she didn't deserve in the first place and perform competently.

Posted by: southyrndiva | November 24, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Hallelujah! So much for the union's threat of a lawsuit. Talk about dead in the water!

Rhee was vindicated at the hearings, and now by the rule of law. Let the reforms - and firing of bad teachers - continue!

Posted by: RL67 | November 24, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse


Sorry to burst your bubble, but Rhee was NOT vindicated. The union just didn't put on a strong case. It's not unlike someone being found not guilty. Such a finding does not mean the person is innocent; it just means the prosecutor's case was weak.


You state DC has finally gotten someone (rhee) "who actually puts the children first." I wonder if the Americorps teens (who her fiancé is alleged to have molested and/or with whom he had inappropriate sexual contact) would say the same thing in response to her alleged attempts to cover up the incidents? Where was her "children first" mantra then? (See candycane1's post at 4:50 p.m. for the link to the Inspector General's report.)

Posted by: schooletal | November 24, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse


The union didn't put on a strong case because it doesn't have one.

It IS vindication - the judge said the union was unable to prove any of its core arguments. Don't underestimate the union either, they can afford good legal representation.

Posted by: RL67 | November 24, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse


This ruling is by no means the end of this fight. Even some of the union members who attended the hearing reported that the union's representatives were weak, seemingly ill-prepared litigants. Let's just wait for the results from the myriad individual lawsuits and the EEOC findings. That 30 unjustly terminated teachers were recently reinstated was only the tip of the iceberg. This was but one battle; the war has yet to be won. Rhee is as "innocent" as O.J. Simpson. Stay tuned . . .

Posted by: schooletal | November 24, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

So DCPS is currently hiring teachers after laying teachers off on Oct. 2nd?

Is that true?

Posted by: aby1 | November 24, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Watching someone finally show the courage and fortitude to make a change in a system that had compromised the needs of children in favor of the political posturing of the adults. It is so sad that it continues. Isn't it enough that generations are going through a failed system? It is time to move forward and put the needs of the future before everything else. People all over the world are praising Michelle Rhee for her courage and her passion for creating desperately needed change in the capital of the United States. Enough of this terrible waste that is not worthy of the capital city of the United States. DC should be a model of modern education not a travesty. When the children shine....we will all know that we have done justice to our responsibility to them. We cannot claim any glory or talk about how hard we work or how unjust the system is when the children are losing under our watch. I am one citizen who would plead with the teacher's union to spend all of this effort, time and money on improving teachers and teaching and creating a better tomorrow for the district's children. Thank you Michelle Rhee! Do not give up. It takes your kind of courage and fortitude to get this job done.

Posted by: childrenfirst1 | November 24, 2009 8:58 PM | Report abuse


Obviously you believe that Michelle Rhee is improving education in a legitimate way, so I cannot fault you for your thoughts. However, many of us are convinced that she is trying to accomplish her goals through dishonesty, manipulation and mistreatment. Hopefully people who are empowered to investigate the situation and discover the truth will do so. We all want what's best for the children of DC.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 24, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

“It is time to move forward and put the needs of the future before everything else.”

Agreed -- That’s a broad statement that could apply to any cause in the history of humanity.

“People all over the world are praising Michelle Rhee for her courage and her passion for creating desperately needed change in the capital of the United States.”

Hyperbole much?

“Enough of this terrible waste that is not worthy of the capital city of the United States. DC should be a model of modern education not a travesty. When the children shine....we will all know that we have done justice to our responsibility to them. We cannot claim any glory or talk about how hard we work or how unjust the system is when the children are losing under our watch.”

Agreed! That’s why Rhee must go, so the rebuilding can begin.

Posted by: efavorite | November 24, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

I read the courts opinion and Judge Bartnoff stated the only point the union won were those not contested by DCPS. That is a telling statement. Teachers have been misrepresented by their union. The union lost every single count and is not allowed to arbitrate any issues associated with the RIF. Another note worthy point was George Parker appears to have been caught lying under oath. He said he knew nothing of the RIF and the government's witnesses asserted he was involved in planning it and they (DCPS) used some of his recommendations. There is another way of examining the events which many teachers do not consider which is your team captain is playing on the other team. That would not be a first with a labor union. That would explain alot of the WTU issues.

Posted by: EthicsLawPro | November 24, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

BBCROCK, were any of the bad teachers you have mentioned in your previous posts (like the ones who admit shooting up or don't remember their college) let go under the RIF.
You don't need to give names of teachers, of course, just numbers and names of schools.

Posted by: edlharris | November 25, 2009 1:18 AM | Report abuse

Mrs. Rhee has admitted to hiring after the firing.
From the Washington Times:
Although she defended her decision to fire teachers, Mrs. Rhee also said she had recently hired a "communications expert" to help publicize the progress she is making as chancellor. "I feel this is one of the main weakness areas," she said. "We have not been able to craft a communications plan that gets out the good news of what is happening in DCPS. As a result of this vacuum - the lack of a proactive communications plan - information available to the public is dictated by the media."

Posted by: edlharris | November 25, 2009 3:27 AM | Report abuse

Don't let Rhee do to DC public schools what Bloomberg and Klein have done in New York City. Our schools are a complete and total mess. Bloom/Klein have turned a system that worked for many into one that doesn't work for any. In fact Bloomberg ran as the "education" mayor and almost lost the election. Despite plastering the city with advertisements touting his vaunted "reforms," he won by less than 5 points. His opponent ran a lackluster campaign and Bloomberg still almost lost the election. Parents overwhelmingly voted against him, especially parents in poor neighborhoods. Everywhere kids have been squeezed into classrooms like sardines. Principals have been empowered to inflate test results and lie and cheat their way to higher graduation rates. Rhee is on the road to destroying your schools they way ours have been leveled.

Posted by: goko | November 25, 2009 5:42 AM | Report abuse

edlharris - It's totally in keeping with Rhee's style that she would fight perceived media misperceptions by hiring a media expert.

Posted by: efavorite | November 25, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

How many jobs could have been saved for what Rhee's media expert cost? If she used common sense and was honest and transparent as both Fenty and her touch-feely fiance claim to be, there would be no need for a media expert.

Posted by: southyrndiva | November 25, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

The Post Editorial board of course celebrates this ruling as proof that Rhee is doing the right thing.

First, let's look at history and see all of the court rulings that have upheld illegal, discriminatory, unfair laws and government officials' actions.

Second, let's look at the the current investigation into some DC Public schools' high wrong to right erasures on the the standardized testing. Is Rhee really doing such a great job or is it a lot of smoke and mirrors?

Third, we can expose Rhee's false claim of her success in improving the NAEP scores since the scores include both public and charter schools. How can she claim the success is her if charter and DCPS scores can't be separated.

The list could go on and on. Rhee relies on the ignorance of of the general public and the conservatism of the Post's editorial board to manipulate the truth about her reforms.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | November 25, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

The union should be suded for malpratice.

Posted by: cureton46 | November 25, 2009 11:58 PM | Report abuse

twelve schools cited for suspect test results..this is the best for the kids...rhee always thinks about best for the kids...i pray that kerri briggs stand for this issue bcos cheating is not good for the kids...

Posted by: bongtatay | November 27, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

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