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WTU drills dry hole in layoffs suit

By Bill Turque

The Washington Teachers' Union's court challenge to the October 2009 layoffs effectively ended this morning when a WTU attorney told a D.C. Superior Court judge that after scrutinizing 1,200 pages of District documents, the union could find no evidence that Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee contrived the budget crunch that she said justified the job reductions.

"We didn't find anything that would warrant further briefing," attorney Brenda C. Zwack told Judge Judith Bartnoff, legalese for acknowledging that there was no smoking gun to keep the case alive.

The union appeared to have hit a dead end last November, when Bartnoff denied its bid for a preliminary injunction barring the District from sacking the 266 educators. She said WTU had failed to prove the heart of its case: that Rhee's hiring of more than 900 new teachers in the spring and summer of 2009 left a glut of new instructors, allowing her to create a sham financial crisis that fall. The phony budget squeeze enabled Rhee to target older teachers, the union charged.

The legal ground shifted in April, when Rhee stunned the D.C. Council by announcing the discovery of a $34 million surplus in the DCPS budget. That sum was quickly declared a fiction by D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi. But questions raised by the fiscal confusion were enough for Bartnoff to grant the WTU "limited discovery" to investigate what financial information was available to Rhee at the time of the layoffs.

A handful of the 266 dismissed teachers filed into the courtroom while the brief hearing (barely 10 minutes) was underway.

"All these people are here and we're going to send them home," Bartnoff said. She did not formally dismiss the case this morning, but is expected to do so by early next year.

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By Bill Turque  | October 29, 2010; 1:17 PM ET
 
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Next: So when exactly was Rhee's last day?

Comments

So current WTU leadership just gave up on our fellow 266 teachers. This should be a warning to the 700 teachers rated minimally effective. The current leadership at WTU will do nothing to protect you. You are next. There’s an election, and if you don’t vote in the runoff and vote against Parker, then good luck keeping your job!!!

Posted by: rocstr | October 29, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

"So current WTU leadership just gave up on our fellow 266 teachers."

How is that your conclusion from reading the article? There was no evidence to support the union's claim. None. Zero. And you're upset that they didn't waste more of your dues to pursue a baseless claim?

Posted by: horacemann | October 29, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Rhee doesn't appear to be able to handle fiscal responsibility. Even so, the media praises her as some sort of hero.

How she hired 900, and then laid 266 is pure incompetence. But according to "Waiting for Superman" she is wonderful.

Posted by: educationlover54 | October 29, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

When in America has a lawyer NOT been able to find evidence to defend a client. A lawyer can witness his client committing a crime and find some evidence to defend him.

WTU attorney sold the 266 teachers down the river. I’m not a teacher, but even Steve Wonder can see that the current WTU leadership needs to be replaced.

Posted by: GoldCoast | October 30, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

WoW George Parker really did it this time he SOLD OUT the 266 that were Wrongfullu Terminated and than he Stands outside and smiled about it as if now they see how much POWER I hold as WTU President of the Union after you all tried to get me out Im not going nowhere I'm going to keep Doing what I been doing. Getting rid of Teachers. At my Will .Asyou all see he's no good for the teachers and staff of DCPS you need to step up and Vote for Nathan Saunders he will fight for you and whats rights when you get your new run off Ballot Do The Right Thing Vote For Nathan & Candi for WTU President & VP

Posted by: Darksecrettt | October 31, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

How many of the 266 were actually dues paying members in good-standing? It seems that the mathematical odds are not in favor for a change.

Posted by: PowerandPride | November 1, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand this from a legal standpoint, but there has to be an issue of forcing a financial pressure by hiring 900 new teachers. there are budget documents and plans that are well established and published. The issue is did Rhee have plans and authority to hire 900 teachers?

I am sorry, but there is no way an Executive hires 900 new teachers at a known average cost of $75-80K to replace known attrition and 150-200 fired teachers. this was a forced issue.

Posted by: oknow1 | November 1, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Watch the Ghandi-Rhee-Gray hearing tapes. Ghandi and his staff stumbled around and only supported Rhee's contention that, based on the info provided by Ghandi's office, she had a serious deficit at the time of the RIF.

The contemporaneous hiring is viewed as a separate issue by the court, and that is not going to change.

If new union leadership press on with this non-case, one could predict that Mayor Gray will give them a deaf ear.

Time for the unionistas to grow up and realize the city government and DCPS do not revolve around them. The many good teachers are looking for an end to being embarrassed by their incompetent union, not an extension of the present union management's cluelessness and fumbling and ignoring vital public opinion

Posted by: axolotl | November 2, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

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