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In search of $30 million in overspending

When District CFO Natwar M. Gandhi told Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee that the $34 million surplus she thought she had didn't exist, he also said DCPS had overspent its budget by an estimated $30 million. About $20 million was in central operations, he said in his April 15 letter, and about $10 million was spread across categories called "Special Pay," "Overtime" and the always popular "Other Items." The letter offered no details.

I assumed that by now, DCPS would have a more detailed idea of what Gandhi was talking about. But Rhee spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway and her boss, Marrianne McMullen, said they had nothing. Same for mayoral flak Mafara Hobson. Calloway and McMcMullen both referred me to Gandhi flak David Umansky, who declined to comment.
George Dines, the school system finance officer who is in the middle of this mess, continued his no-response policy.

Gandhi and Rhee are scheduled to testify before the D.C. Council on Friday. But Gandhi, who would not comment for the a story I did Sunday on the financial disarray, is due to appear Wednesday before the council's finance and revenue committee, chaired by Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). While it's supposed to be a hearing about Gandhi's agency budget, it's good bet that Evans will have some questions for him about DCPS.

Update 9 p.m.: Umansky says an accounting of the overspending may be available Tuesday.

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By Bill Turque  |  April 26, 2010; 5:19 PM ET
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Next: A $2,000 surplus and "absolute hogwash"


Searching for $30 million?

Quick! Where's Harriette Walters?

Posted by: jcbcmb68 | April 26, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

who will blink first?

Posted by: efavorite | April 26, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if Freddie and Jo-Ann will get upset with the word flak.

Posted by: edlharris | April 27, 2010 12:17 AM | Report abuse


From Rhee’s 3/13/09 “Letter to Teachers” about the contract being negotiated at that time:

“…since my appointment, we’ve increased funding for professional development by 400%. [number bolded in original] And we plan to invest even more in the years to come.”
[4/27/10 Note to CFO Gandhi: Check here for overpayments to consultants]

“I know many of you are suspicious of external groups playing a role in your compensation. I would be, too. But very soon I’ll be able share with you the details of these commitments. Rest assured, they’re SUSTAINABLE [bolded in original] over the long-term with public funding alone. The last thing I want to do is launch a pay structure that can’t survive.”
[4/27/10 update: Rhee has achieved success! The last thing she did was launch a pay structure that endured less than a week. Does this mean she’ll be leaving soon?]

Posted by: efavorite | April 27, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

The 10 million in "special pay" ,"overtime" and other items is quite evident that each and every return responsed "email" from her is costing the taxpayer a pretty penny. Does she put in for night-differential? [sarcasm]

I used to notice that when DCPS would schedule an evening meeting it went like clockwork; started on time and ended on time. Well, now the meetings are lingering longer and longer...and I am sensing there's no rush...because the longer they stay...the more they will get paid.

Posted by: PowerandPride | April 27, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

What's strange about the Gandhi-Rhee discussion is the absence of discussion about the impact of spending on school improvements. I know 3 schools that got improvements last summer each ran $1 million over budget. I know former Superintendent Janney had a very equitable school facilities plan that would have started at the HS's, spread around the benefits of school improvements to all 8 wards, etc. I know Rhee "accelerated" school improvements in a way that led to almost $100 million being spent on schools in NW, while the crying need for school improvements in Wards 6, for example, are now budgeted for $1 or $2 million. I know has washed her hands of school improvements--not her responsibility, it's Mr. Lew's job, just as DCPS budget basics are not her job, that's Gandhi's responsibility. Is the school improvements budget overspent as much as the central office budget has been overspent?

Posted by: Trulee | April 27, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Central operations? "Special pay"? "Overtime"? "Other Items"? Equals 30M dollars? I wouldn't be surprised if, somewhere out there, a few Kappas were stuffing their mattresses.

Posted by: forgetthis | April 27, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

The real estate boom and influx of high earners into some DC neighborhoods has made the district government fat and lazy. Chancellor Rhee came in with the admirable goal of paring back Central Office spending which was wasting DCPS resources. How did she take her eye off one of her core strategic initiatives? The fact that no one has an answer why spending at the CO has swelled by $20 million is very disturbing. And I bet her first reaction will be to pin the blame on someone else. Can Chancellor Rhee and her team run a big city school district or are they just a great p.r. operation?

Posted by: chgobluesguy | April 27, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

They stole the school budget to pay for the snow removal....that's what they did. What's the point in saving funds for a rainy day if another department is going to steal them because they are incompetent and over spend???

Posted by: mebyrns | April 27, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

DCPS central office pays for several positions such as the great Master Teachers, Mentor Teachers, regular bu-- kissers, people whose job is to make Rhee feel good, specialist hired to make the lives of DCPS personnel a living hell.

Again, why is DCPS still using the 80,000 figure in the 2010-11 SY budgets? Are we heading for another RIF. Almost every school has had to reduce staff for next school year. Please explain what is going on.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | April 27, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

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