"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Rhee Defied Law In Order to Slash More Teachers

Apparently the pleas of Grover Norquist were not enough to rally the pro-Rhee troops this past Thursday, as the Lady with the Broom went before DC City Council without cheering crowds to explain why she took it upon herself to ignore the law along the way to creating the latest crisis within the DC City Schools.

Whether or not Rhee and her flunky CFO, Noah Wepman, will end up fired for incompetence, mismanagement, and breaking District laws remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that on November 5, Judge Bartnoff will have ample reasons to seriously consider ordering the reinstatement of the 266 District teachers who were canned by Rhee and her henchmen on October 2, despite the budget decisions given her by DC City Council.

Here are just some of the relevant details that the Court may consider on November 5.

Mr. Wepman admits that the Chancellor's Office knew in early July 2009 that the new DC Schools were seriously overspending their projected budget by hiring over 900 new teachers during Spring and Summer of 2009, which represented 300 more teachers than normal, even though no one projected any sizable increase in student enrollment for this year. Mr. Wepman nor anyone else in the Chancellor's office bothered to share this overspending information with the District CFO, Natwar M. Gandhi. This maneuver, in fact, allowed the new Budget to be certified, which, in turn, required $43.9 million to be cut from the budget.

Mr. Wepman offered the Chancellor "about 10 options to cut costs that did not involve cutting teachers," but the Chancellor could not be dissuaded from her plan to cut experienced teachers while keeping the new hires that were largely responsible for the deficit that Ms. Rhee had created.

Instead of making the cuts as the District's legislative body legally mandated, Chancellor Rhee took it upon herself, without even bothering to send an email to Council, to reinstate $9 million that the District had ordered cut from the 2010 summer school budget, which could have saved 100 of the 266 teacher positions that Rhee sliced out.

From Bill Turque in WaPo:

. . . .For some council members, the revelations confirmed suspicions that Rhee ignored a council directive to trim the summer school program and manipulated this year's budget process to further her goal of replacing a large portion of the city's 4,000 teachers. They vowed to press their investigation of the dismissals.

The hearing also laid bare festering tensions between Rhee and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), a possible mayoral candidate next year, who has for months criticized the school leader for a lack of communication and transparency. He said her decision, which he called "incredibly cavalier," violated legal requirements that she submit a "reprogramming" request to the council when shifting funds.

"I'm talking about the law," Gray said. "Why bother to have a legislative body if the people in the executive branch do whatever they choose because they don't like the decision of the legislative body?" . . . .

And more juicy details from the Washington Times that show that Rhee was planning personnel cuts even while she was hiring an unprecedented number of new teachers:

. . . .Mr. Wepman acknowledged he should have told Mr. Gandhi in July when the school system became aware of projected overspending, but he said he did not because the school system was considering options, including cutting personnel, that would address the problem.

"We had to predict options that would occur in the future that would get us [under budget]," Mr. Wepman said. "We knew based on the actions we planned to take that it would be balanced."

Mr. Gray said he would look into Mr. Wepman's actions, saying there appeared to be "no question" the law was broken.

The revelation further incensed several members of the council who for weeks have questioned the legitimacy of the layoffs, which occurred after the school system hired more than 900 teachers before the school year began.

Council members and education advocates have speculated that the personnel cuts were an intended consequence of overhiring that would allow the chancellor to make targeted firings of teachers and school employees.

Ms. Rhee said the high number of hirings, almost 300 more than in recent years, was the result of a budget that put more money in individual schools than in previous years.

Eliciting further outrage from council members was the revelation that Mr. Wepman provided Ms. Rhee with about 10 options to cut costs that did not include cutting teachers.. . .

1 comment:

  1. When Rhee mouths the line she's "doing what's best for the kids, she is simply parroting a new slogan created in ultra-conservative think tanks. She's not alone. Joel Klein is doing it in New York City, Paul Vallas is doing it in New Orleans, in fact, every graduate of the Broad Center for Superintendents is singing the same tune. There isn't an ounce of sincerity in one of them, especially Rhee! They are all ideologues and functionaries who do as Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Jeb Bush and other super-rich men instruct them.

    These think tanks are places like the Hoover Institute where neoliberals crawl around considering how unions, public schools and Social Security can be destroyed and the US can be transformed into a vast slave labor camp.

    Since the DCPS is overwhelmingly populated with African-American children and other children of color, Ms. Rhee comment implies that until she came along, no one cared for these children. No one cared, not their parents, not their teachers, not the men and women who represent their parents in political office, no one BR (before Rhee).

    Seems like a fair question next time you see her, Chairman Gray. Ask Ms. Rhee if she really believes that she cares about Black children more than you do. Ask her to go back in her life and cite concrete and demonstrable acts that prove her anti-racist credentials and superior wisdom on these matters.