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Gray warns of strings on private ed dollars

D.C. Council Chairman and mayoral candidate Vincent C.Gray said Thursday he welcomes the DCPS-WTU tentative agreement, but that the council will take a hard look at the $64.5 million in foundation largesse embedded in the pact.

"While I appreciate and am grateful for outside resources and new partnerships that help our children achieve and reward high-quality teachers, there is no such thing as a free lunch," Gray said in a statement. "Grants or donations of this magnitude rarely come without expectations or some kind of give and take. We will need to determine what those expectations are, what DCPS might be expected to give as it takes funds to the tune of $64.5 million, what strings are attached, and whether D.C. taxpayer dollars may be at-risk at any point."

Chief Financial Officer Natwar M.Gandhi's fiscal review of the private donations is due by the middle of next week. If Gandhi gives the green light, the teachers' union will send out mail ballots for a two-week voting period. If the union approves, the accord goes to the council for final consideration.

Here is Gray's full statement:

"After a nearly three-year delay, I welcome the tentative contract agreement reached by the Washington Teachers Union and the District of Columbia Public Schools. Many aspects of the agreement appear to reflect a growing understanding of the need to reward and recognize high-performing teachers as one component in a broader strategy of improving student achievement and success.

"Should the teachers approve the contract, it will come before the Council for review and approval. In preparation for this oversight, I've asked the Chief Financial Officer to take an in-depth look at the agreement to ensure the city can pay for the deep financial obligations proposed by the Executive during these challenging economic times. We also will pay close attention to the use of private dollars to underwrite the contract. While I appreciate and am grateful for outside resources and new partnerships that help our children achieve and reward high-quality teachers, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Grants or donations of this magnitude rarely come without expectations or some kind of give and take. We will need to determine what those expectations are, what DCPS might be expected to give as it takes funds to the tune of $64.5 million, what strings are attached, and whether D.C. taxpayer dollars may be at-risk at any point.

"After years of turbulent debate and mistrust among teachers at odds with the Chancellor and the Mayor, I sincerely hope today's announcement clears the path to far better working relationships among the two sides. As a partner in the school reform effort from the start, my colleagues on the Council and I will do all we can to contribute to an environment of trust and cooperation for the benefit of our children."

By Bill Turque  |  April 8, 2010; 6:37 PM ET
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Gray is scrambling to spin the contract in a negative light because he knows once it's approved the teachers don't have a compelling reason to go out and vote for him.

Gray is a fool - the only thing foundations want in return is RESULTS!

Thanks, Bill, for this non-story.

Posted by: RL67 | April 9, 2010 12:40 AM | Report abuse

Is curriculum in any way influenced through this private donation ? Just asking.

Posted by: jralger | April 9, 2010 5:58 AM | Report abuse

Gray is right in throwing a spotlight on a $65 million dollar gift to public school teaches.

we are not going to approve 2 public schols sytems one public and one charter

charter schools are a fraud and they are preying upon blacks and latinos

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | April 9, 2010 6:01 AM | Report abuse

nice to see a politician acknowledge that contributions always come with strings attached. a review of his past and present financial supporters would be interesting-what were the quid pro quos.

Posted by: george32 | April 9, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

I am a parent of a children in DC Public schools. I have debated for a long time if I should stay in the current public school. If teachers decide not to confirm this contract, myself and many other people will continue leaving the system. There will not be enough kids for teachers to teach. It is really important that teachers give a good faith step of accountability to parents for reform and improvement if we are to keep faith in the sytem. I know the problems in the system are not all the kids, but fundamentally the person our child encounters for more hours of the day than any other person is their teacher and they must be front and center part of the reform.

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Posted by: ixicaovos | April 9, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Brooklander - it sounds like you have decided that a no vote on the contract means the teacher is against reform. is that right?

Perhaps there are other reasons a teacher would vote no.

Posted by: efavorite | April 9, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

When this contract (collective bargaining agreement) passes with flying colors. Wouldn't one think that this will open doors for others unions to begin to solicit for outside dollars to supplement "fringe benefits." Which brings the at old-adage out of the talks and bull-shift walks.

Hey, can some again tell me why did we chase down Rhee in New Orleans about three years ago...was it, could it been that she was good at what she was hired to do?

Posted by: PowerandPride | April 9, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Since this is about DCPS, I think Chairman Gray should have owlishly said, "There is no such thing as a free or reduced-price lunch."

Really, though, based on Gray's charges of fabrication and opacity regarding the Oct. 09 RIF, I thought he'd be steering the council to concentrate on the proposed contract's language on teacher job security and whether DCPS will be forced to be forthright about adjustments to overall staffing. If the foundation funding proves to be some sort of Trojan horse--or worse, some sort of Trojan mirage--then the parties to the contract negotiation weren't very diligent. "Hey, we don't need to worry if any of this contract makes sense--take a look at that big honking pile of money over there on the table!"

And although I'm not interested in an Ed Hardy T-shirt, "Quality is our Dignity; Service is our Lift" would make a good motto for the WTU.

Posted by: gardyloo | April 9, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Had Council Chair Gray not exercised due diligence in examining the fine print regarding the private funding arrangement(s)of the DCPS-WTU tentative agreement, critics would have blamed him for not looking out for the best interests of public education in the District. The funders are sure to have certain stipulations (as they should) regarding the allocation of their dollars. Gray is just making sure, given the past transgressions of this administration, that public education in the city is the primary beneficiary of this generosity and the money is not being used to push an agenda which is not conducive to the health and well-being of our city.

Posted by: Robmic812 | April 9, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

an unprecedented donation to an entity with a poor recrod in so many regards, to presume strings being attached is only common sense. This group will not be dialing the same phone number for Rhee as you and I. That is for sure.

The strings attached are never formal. It could be implicit pressure to hire Teach For America teachers versus tradional 4-year college grads. it could be overt changes to select service providers with ties to the contributors. You may see the establich of program review boards or some other mechanism for them to evaluate the results of their contriution. what role will they have if any. There are a plethora of concerns that may or may not have anything to do with education or teachers. but again, with so much riding on this money DCPS will jump when they say jump and there lies the fundamental problem.

What's th city's true committment to education? what's Fenty's commitment? If the City were true to education, they would evaluate its needs and move forward accordingly. This is yet another poor management bailout.

Posted by: oknow1 | April 9, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I am a local brookland parent with the opposite view of brooklander. Given that current reform has resulted in our local Brooklan/bunker hill schools dropping from 55% proficiency in 2007/2008 to 40% in 2009 it seems as if the reforms are having devastating effects in our community. I thoroughly question who this reform is serving-clearly not children who attend schools in this neighborhoos. Also the the foundation and corporate backing the 'merit pay' provisions about promoting private enterprise through charters, test developers and other organizations that have gained billions through educational reform at the expense of quality public schooling--while our children continue to show sluggish progress(if any) on the NAEP and other measures of educational progress.
I am closely following former Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch as she seeks to debunk much of what Rhee promotes such as--- merit pay, teacher performance tied to student testing, and private enterprise having more say in local public schools than the public citizens whose local schools are suppose to serve their children.
See or her interview yesterday on the BBC at this link.

We DC students and families deserve so much more than the systematic manipulation of our children to meet other people’s agendas.I thank Councilman Gray for providing oversight but wish he would take back his vote for mayoral control of a schools which are supposed to be democratic institution responsive to their communities yet are becoming playgrounds for corporate and foundation wheeling and dealing.

Posted by: janetcamillebrown | April 9, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse


In 2008, 58 of the 119 students at Brookland Elementary were economically disadvantaged (49 percent). In 2009, 130 of the 211 students tested were economically disadvantaged (62 percent).

Maybe this is a factor in the dropping test scores? Or would you rather go back to your other rock-solid reasons?

Posted by: gardyloo | April 9, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Janetcamillebrown wrote:

"We DC students and families deserve so much more than the systematic manipulation of our children to meet other people’s agendas."

I could not agree more. This city probably needs one large town hall meeting on education, with no agenda other than to scrutinize this so-call reform (I'm still looking for evidence of it), analyze what has happened thus far and whether events have aligned with the requirements of the law that established mayoral control, and establish a commission that would be willing to do the heavy lifting to get us where we need to go. This town hall meeting should be inviting to a broad spectrum of teachers (some of whom have left the system willingly because they could not bear the destruction the chancellor was bringing to the system; young teachers who were hired and told they were the saviors of the system only to become disillusioned by the chancellor's leadership; and those who were let go, despite a record of stellar performance).

The city needs to wake up. You simply cannot have a strong school system and initiate true reform without experienced teachers. I am of the opinion that the teachers should run the system anyway, in an era of mutual accountability, with oversight coming from a panel of citizens elected by the voters. (Wow! I guess I'm proposing that we come full circle to reestablish a school board with primary oversight). I'm a little weary of all the empty drama this chancellor and mayor have whipped up.

Our precious children deserve better and they can do better. I remember when I started at a D.C. elementary school in December, I was given a fifth-grade special needs student who was intellectually challenged (in D.C. she would be classified as having mental retardation) and sat in the back of the class all day doing nothing. I was told she was a non-reader. By May, she was reading third-grade material and was able to solve order of operations problems. I KNOW our children can learn, so it is no catchy phrase like that used by Rhee, as she self-promotes herself as the messiah of the poor D.C. students. If she truly cared about our students, she would focus more on the schools in the eighth ward where I worked. If she truly cared about our students, she would provide those schools with more resources to ensure parity in education in the city. She indeed would work tirelessly to ensure that every elementary school in the city was as resource-ladened as the one her daughters attend. Can she really demonstrate such commitment?

We need change, and we need it soon. We simply cannot afford to waste anymore time.

Posted by: vscribe | April 9, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Chair Gray sounds like a Republican: just say no--to any kind of reform. He does not recognize that time is education: either delivered, or lost. And he's no management expert, as shown by his stint at the top of the Department of Human Services. Vince can be a good guy, but he's just one more pol., looking for votes, in this case at the expense of the District's children.

Posted by: axolotl | April 11, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

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