"Significant progress" in contract funding
There's movement tonight in attempts to close a yawning gap in the financing for the proposed teachers contract. District officials hope to have a proposal that will pass muster Friday with the city's chief financial officer, his spokesman said.
David Umansky said school officials have promised to provide "new numbers" in time for Gandhi to present his analysis to the D.C. Council Friday morning. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee is scheduled to testify following Gandhi.
"There has been significant progress in closing the funding gap in the contract and the DCPS spending pressures," Umansky said.
The Fenty administration had to scramble when Gandhi rejected a plan to use about $21 million in private foundation funds for teacher salaries promised in a proposed new labor contract. The foundations said in letters to the District that they reserved the right to cut off funding if there was a change in leadership of the school system or annual growth in student test scores did not meet predicted levels.
Gandhi told city officials that money for the salaries contract must be "without condition," meaning either local or federal dollars.
Details of the solution being crafted by the District remained unclear late Thursday. But a key figure in coordinating the foundation funding revealed that if the contract is ratified by the union and the council, the $21 million in private donations earmarked for teacher pay would flow to the District in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
It means that the city would have to provide interim public financing for just a few months before the foundation money is in hand. Those public funds could then be reprogrammed by the council for other uses.
Cate Swinburn, president and executive director of the D.C. Public Education Fund, the non-profit set up by Fenty supporters to funnel private support for public schools, also said in a letter to The Post that the Sept. 14 mayoral primary "will occur after the private funds have been received by the District." That means that even if Rhee leaves because her boss, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, is defeated, the teachers will still have their money.
The mayor and chancellor must also replace the $34 million that Gandhi disallowed on April 15 because it was not a "surplus" as Rhee characterized it for D.C. Council. While the budget indicated that expenditures for teacher salaries were running under anticipated levels, Gandhi told Rhee that the gain was offset by about $30 million in overspending on unspecified overtime and central office operations.
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