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Breaking: Gandhi blesses teachers contract

District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi is ready to certify the $140 million teachers contract as fiscally sound, ending nearly five weeks of interagency fingerpointing and confusion.

Sources say a financing package that closes a $10.7 million funding gap in the accord is awaiting only sign off from Mayor Adrian M.Fenty. A press conference or formal announcement is expected in the next couple of hours. More to come.

UPDATE 8:20 PM: At an early evening presser on the steps of the Wilson Building, over the din of rush hour traffic, Fenty, Gandhi and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee offered a somewhat rambling explanation of the financial fix that allowed for certification.

In essence, it gives Gandhi exactly what he has insisted upon for weeks as a necessary condition for fiscal certification: a contract with unconditional public money. The $21 million in private foundation money Rhee wanted to use came with conditions --including no changes in DCPS leadership--that Gandhi found unacceptable.

The package boils down to a series of cuts and reshuffling of funds to close what is now described as a $38.8 million gap (the numbers have shifted a bit in the last couple of weeks). This includes a $10.7 million hole in the financing for the teacher raises in the contract. It also involves and another $28.1 million in projected overspending in other parts of the school budget.

About $18.7 million of the $38.8 million will be made up with a combination of federal stimulus dollars that can be used to support teacher salaries, Title I funds, and another $3 million in various accrued federal payments and fund balances.

The rest--about $20.1 million--will come from what amounts to a borrowing from programs that won't be spending down much of their money until near the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. This includes:

$7 million for school supplies and equipment.

$3.6 million in deferred purchase orders.

$2.1 million from a math intervention program for the middle schools.

$1.9 million in what officials describe as an "underspend" in the school security contract.

$1 million in unspecified contracts in the office of the chief academic officer.

$1 million reflecting an anticipated underspending for compensatory education in the office of special education.

$550,000 from delaying the start of after school programs until after Labor Day.

$500,000 for equipment for the Early Stages program.

Rhee said that this money will in essence, serve temporarily as unconditional funding for the contract until the WTU and the D.C. Council approve the tentative agreement. Those two actions will trigger the disbursement of $16.6 million in private foundation money to the District, allowing the other dollars to be re-routed back to their original purposes. The private funds will be spent almost immediately on the teacher raises, rendering moot the most troublesome of the conditions, the one involving leadership changes. Rhee isn't going anywhere between now and the end of the fiscal year, even if Fenty loses the Sept. 14 primary.

The five weeks of dispute and disarray over funding laid bare serious tensions between Fenty-Rhee and Gandhi office. But all was kumbaya Monday evening on the Wilson Building steps.

"I have nothing but the utmost respect for what [Dr. Gandhi] does," said Rhee.

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By Bill Turque  |  May 10, 2010; 4:58 PM ET
 
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Comments

No surprise to anyone who attended or watched the video of the April 30 council hearing. Let the vituperation, recriminations, name-calling, venting, and gnashing of teeth begin. But please don't take too long, as the vote needs to occur. I can hear some of our frequent commenters singing the same old song to teachers, this time with an extra cussing out for the Mayor and even Nat Ghandi for stepping out of line. And maybe no thanks from the cabal of anti-change teachers for mayoral crypto-candidate Vince Gray for being instrumental in making this happen (a savvy move on his part, with no cynicism). And a special huzzah will be shouted for Rubber Room Randi, who says she is a reformer and knows what DC teachers want and is as we speak here to help them. Let's hope for the best for the children (a term that sets off some subset of teachers for some odd reason).

Posted by: axolotl | May 10, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

axolotl

Glad to see you are on top of this story.

I agree, a vote needs to take place asap.

Posted by: fmurray200111 | May 10, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Don't fall for this, teachers! After three years of "intense" negotiating, the best they could come up with was an agreement funded by private, anti-union donors. After their scam was exposed by Gandhi--and in approximately 10 days, no less--they NOW have found a way to fully fund the contract?!

This move is highly suspect (though expected), at the very least and an affront to the intelligence of career teachers, for whom rhee has no respect, at best.

Don't be led like sheep to the slaughter. Vote NO to the TA.

Posted by: schooletal | May 10, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Calling All DCPS Educators:

It's time to unite as "ONE" and vote "NO" to the WTU Tentative Agreement (T.A.)

Look out for the pink slips by May 30, 2010!

United "WE" stand and divided "WE" fall!!

VOTE "NO" to the WTU T.A.

Enough is Enough, Rhee MUST GO!

Posted by: sheilahgill | May 10, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

If I had a vote on this, I would probably vote NO. Not only is the funding for this contract a will-o-the-wisp (now you see it, now you don't), it also leaves lots and lots of things up in the air - such as, how to qualify for what may end up being mythical, unfunded bonuses. Anything that gives Rhee and IMPACT legitimacy appears to me also to be a bad idea.
My prediction? If it passes, and if the part about bonuses is ever hammered out, then the school system will run out of money within 12 months and start laying off teachers, aides, bus drivers, and other staff. And no improvements for the students will be in evidence in DCPS.

Posted by: TexasIke59 | May 10, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

This union vote will be in the affirmative...probably about 70-80% "for". How could people turn down a 20% pay increase in this economy? IMPACT evaluations are a pain in the #%(*, but teachers can now win! A pay increase and an opportunity to shine! Remember folks, the tests are just a baseline. Deliver on the tests and build your enrichment, experential learning on top of it. (How long will it take someone from the union to criticize this post?)

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | May 10, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

This so-called "found" money means absolutely zip if they (i.e., DCPS/DC Govt.) can moonwalk out of the agreement by implementation of Article 40.2--and with no liability for doing so.

As for posters like thetensionmakesitwork, don't believe the hype. He/she is obviously a rhee plant, probably paid out of the $30 million, central office budget overage engineered by her majesty.

Vote affirmatively at your own peril. The pink slips are waiting. Will your name be on one of them?

Posted by: schooletal | May 10, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

The scare tactics being used by union hacks on this blog are pretty scary, reminiscent of big boss union politics in Chicago and Jersey. Teachers: Vote yes, get raises. Want to keep your job? Work hard, adapt to the changing education policy/ movement in this country that seeks to weed out the tenure abusing bad teachers and rewards good teachers with more money.

Posted by: JG55 | May 10, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

I taught for 40 years in two different states, and voted I don't know how many times on proposed contracts. The only advice I have to offer DCPS teachers is to read the contract thoroughly for yourselves. Go to whatever informational meetings the union has and ask as many questions as you need to ask, especially about the RIF provisions.

Here are a few questions I'd ask about RIF.What obligations does the district have in this arena? If teachers are RIFed are they put on a recall list? How long does the recall list remain in effect? Will the district be hiring new staff and then RIFing whoever they want regardless of the evaluation system? What role does seniority play if there is a RIF? Remember...if you don't have a job it doesn't matter what the contract says you would have been paid if you were working.

Posted by: kronberg | May 10, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

School et al, you have no idea what are you talking about...the ignorance of certain union members is astonishing...you are waging a futile rearguard action. Please stop standing in the way of major progress for the teaching corps. You are not entitled to a job for life.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | May 10, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

MO MONEY! MO MONEY! MO MONEY!

TEACHERS! messing around with the DCPS RIF is like playing a game of russian roulette.

actually, working in DCPS is like playing a game of russian roulette. lurking, is the ever present statistical variable looking to kill you... vindictive administrators/evaluators for IMPACT, a consistently fluctuating budget where $$ are conveniently lost/found, the end of the year pink slip parade, a trigger happy (mouth flapping) chancellor, etc...

i'm sure as soon as the union (GP) convinces teachers to approve the contract that there will be a few games of russian roulette to play! is it worth the risk?

Posted by: istheresocialjustice | May 10, 2010 9:49 PM | Report abuse

candycane where are you?

We need your sweet and pepperminty spike here, like a piton in the face of El Capitan to hold our fraying ropes. This can't be happening, right? It is like a bad dream.

The ballots for the TA are being stuffed; the ballots for the WTU election soon to be likewise stuffed.

Can't your get your national network of teachers' union firebrands to barbecue DC with their burning arrows of disapproval?

Posted by: gardyloo | May 10, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

This seems more like a shell game than any kind of "certified" budget process. I can't believe that anyone would trust that these dollars will actually be there and if they are how do we know they will be returned to their original purposes?

On another note, I can't believe what I just read in Turque's post--To save money DCPS is delaying the start of aftercare until AFTER Labor Day. So I have to leave work everyday at 2:45pm to pick my children up for the first two weeks of school?

I know Rhee has her personal tax paid driver but I don't. How am I supposed to arrange this?

Posted by: letsbereal2 | May 10, 2010 10:53 PM | Report abuse

WOW I sure wish they had worked this hard to find the money for the teachers before they disrupted the shool year and effected hundreds of students education.

It is funny to me how they were able to "find" this money in the same budget that Michelle Rhee said that she had a 42 million dollar shortfall. hmmmmm

Teachers do not be fooled by this contract read it carefuly the WHOLE thing. There are parts of this contrat that are very disturbing to me. Section 40.2 is the main one and the merit pay doesn't even start until sy 2011-2012 and it may not even be fully funded. This money that they "found" is only for teacher salaries not the merit pay. Ghandi's own staff testified that they may NEVER have the money for merit pay.
Think about it would you buy a car where the interest rate was blank on the contract with a line that says to be determined at a later date...hmmmm
Don't fall for the smoke and mirrors.

Posted by: reneeinc | May 10, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Teachers may want to be wary. Rhee has been given blanket endorsement to rule as she sees fit by a mayor unable to govern anything with civility. Fear and intimidation are the new world order. If you can't bribe them with promises of loot, just beat them into submission. Crush all that oppose you by whatever means necessary while everyone else turns a blind eye. I know that it's hard to tell but I am only talking about Rhee this time.

Posted by: runjoeyjoe | May 11, 2010 12:24 AM | Report abuse

JG55 seems like a good use of $100,000.

Posted by: edlharris | May 11, 2010 6:04 AM | Report abuse

istheresocialjustice echoes my sentiments exactly!

walking into the building every morning is definitely like playing russian roulette!

administrators are vindictive, and totally disrepectful towards teachers and students.
consequences from chapter 25 are thrown out the window.
why are experienced teachers hired and then stifled? everyone in the building is afraid. what a negative culture...and the morale on our staff is putrid!

Posted by: cosnowflake | May 11, 2010 6:46 AM | Report abuse

thetensionmakesitwork

You gave yourself away with the term "teacher corp". These are terms used by "newbies", DC Fellows, and TFAs. "You are not entitled to a job for life" is another Rhee favorite saying.

If you are going to stand for something, at least pretend that you have a mind of your own. Otherwise, you sound stupid as well as ignorant. Simply spitting out the garbage of Rhee is not the way to go.

Where did you get the numbers you are spitting out? If this contract is passed, many may not be around to spend the money.

As for a job for life, that statement defines your way of thinking. Spend two years and pay off my student loans and move on is the thinking of many new teachers.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | May 11, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Unlike my bud axoltol, I didn't spend happy hour drinking and thinking that I got it made.
So, I don't drink Miss Rhee's KoolAid on this blog(ue) and lying claim I'm in it for the children.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | May 11, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I will vote no when the time come because it is not about the money. Sure 20% increase sounds good, but what will I be required to do to get it. PLEASE PEOPLE!, the working condition is a major concern for me. Teachers should pay close attention to what is happening. If the teachers and the council approves this contract, the purging of DCPS will almost be complete.

Posted by: mike99541 | May 11, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

The fact that Ghandi has certified this Tentative Agreement does not mean that it is in the teacher's or the DC government's interests. It only means that it "works" within the guidelines he has to follow legally and mathmaticly.
It is a lousy, lousy thing for everybody except those who want teacher's unions brought to their knees.
Poor Ms. Rhee--she never taught long enough herself to get a taste of the conditions that led teachers to organize into unions in the first place and apparently her foundation friends feel it is entirely within their right to determine what the DC government should do with regard to its emplyoees!
This whole thing ia an absurdity and monumental embarrassment to our whole city.

Posted by: 1citizen | May 11, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

To phillymarlowe and other chronically naysaying people. First, teachers (some subset of them) wanted full funding for the TA, then they reveled in Rhee's use of Gandhi's misleading numbers, and now they have real problems when solid funding is confirmed by Ghandi. Doesn't make much sense and is really hypocritical, cynical and totally self-interested. (In the labor union world, that is what unions are supposed to be, I recognize--job security and high pay are all there is.) I am sympathetic with the teachers who are paralyzed with indecision about how to vote. There is risk in y or n. But it is greater in no votes--weak chances of a raise, no clearing of the air, continued incompetent leadership among union officials, and scant sympathy from the children, parents, the Council and most stakeholders. Teachers (or more probably a braying subset of them who easily drown out others' concerns) have created much of their own chaos. These zealots have exposed their need for generous pay but are noncommittal about accomplishing anything as Educators. Committed, professional teachers can save this situation--and the citizens and taxpayers and kids in DCPS would like nothing better. There are plenty of capable teachers in DC.

Posted by: axolotl | May 12, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

axxie,
I just love your nicknames for those whose opinion you don't like.
Very warm and touching.
Engenders a certain tendresse for you.

(what's your nicky for Gandhi.
Natty?)

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | May 12, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

ok, phillipmarlowe. Did not realize scoche of familiarity embarrasses you. No harm intended. BTW, I don't "dislike" ur opinions--just don't agree w many or ur logic, "analysis," or purported "facts."

Posted by: axolotl | May 12, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Again, axolotl, you don't read very well.

I said your nickynames "engender a certain tendresse for you."

Tendresse is a feminine French noun meaning tenderness or affection.

When you call me by many of your witty nickynames, I get chills all over.

Just like the time I was chaperoning a bachelor party at a strip club and one of the ladies and touch my tense arm.
It felt good.
Just like your nickynames.
xoxoxo

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | May 12, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

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