City Desk

Fenty’s Proposed Layoffs Should Avoid DCPS

This morning, LL was all over Fenty's announced District gov job cuts. Our aggressive political scribe reported: "Of the remaining 776 employees the mayor is proposing to lay off, 250 are in DCPS—mostly teachers aides and support staff, Tangherlini says." This may not seem like scary news, but it is.

I know what your thinking: teachers aides and support staff seem like easy cuts. What the hell do teacher aides do? What does support staff mean? Let me guess what they do: they help handle over-crowded classrooms, offer tutoring, lesson planning and generally help teachers get through the day. I'm not sure about support staff. But it could mean social workers, guidance counselors, secretaries, and librarians.

Do we really want to cut funding for these jobs? These cuts are coming on the heels of all those school closures last year. Catania made the argument today on the Politics Hour that enrollment is down at DCPS and that more and more kids are going into charter schools. But for every successful charter school, there are stories like City Lights Public Charter which recently had to close its doors before the school year even finished.

It seems like every other week, Colbert King is documenting another screwup with juveniles at DYRS (that few officials care about). If Fenty chooses to make these cuts at DCPS, the safety net for kids will get that much weaker. Do we really want to layoff social workers? Do we really want to cut school personnel that much more? I have met some of these school-based social workers and nobody works harder than they do. Nobody.

Which department should feel some hurt? I think DCPS should be saved from cuts as well as the DMV. Everything else should be on the table.

5:16 p.m. Update: Dena Iverson, press secretary for DCPS, writes in an e-mail: "I just wanted to make a quick but I think important clarification to your post on City Desk about the DCPS reduction of 250 positions.  The reduction in positions is so that we can align staff to lower enrollment.  We expect that the change in the number of staff will happen though staff retirement and attrition." That must be a lot of teacher aids that are retiring.

*photo of Fenty by Darrow Montgomery.

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  • Just A Thought

    For everyone one person on Fenty's executive staff, it equals the salary of 2 to 3 teacher's aides or support staff members in DCPS.

  • Erik Wemple

    Just wanted to weigh in and second what Jason is saying here. These are not good places to cut funding. Thanks for the analysis.

  • Mike DeBonis

    Hey people, what about the fact that DCPS is going to have about 5,000 fewer students than when last year's budget was written? Dontcha think that might have some bearing on staffing decisions?

    Read Turque:

  • Mike DeBonis

    BTW: Where the DCPS budget is down $28.4M vs last year, charter school funding is up $31.3M. So one could reasonably argue a net rise in public education funding/staffing, no?

  • Mike DeBonis

    Oh, and DYRS is getting a 9 percent budget hike. FYI.

  • The Madness Shop

    Is this a pissing contest between Mike & Jason?

  • Mike DeBonis

    LL loves a good whack at Hizzoner, but a well-founded whack.

  • Erik Wemple

    Dear Mr. DeBonis: Do you happen to know who Mary Levy is? Yeah, that’s right, ML! Well, good job covering Mary Cheh and Mary Treadwell, by Levy is the Mary of the moment, at least as far as this debate is concerned. ML showed that DCPS funding levels, on a per-pupil basis, were criminally insufficient, as compared to those of surrounding jurisdictions. You want figures? Here they are: According to the impeccably accurate ML, D.C. as of 2007 was funding $4,000 less per pupil than Alexandria and $3,500 less than Arlington. Oh, and did I mention that the hill that DCPS has to climb is steeper than that of those surrounding jurisdictions? So this is the system whose cuts you endorse, Mr. DeBonis? The point is that whatever the analysis of you bean counters, DCPS is the only hope for the District of Columbia as a jurisdiction. The more students desert to charters, the more unruly the entire charter experiment becomes, and eventually we’ll need some semblance of a governing authority with muscle to oversee them. Meantime, every dollar available in the budget should be pushed to DCPS, because jurisdictions without functional PS systems just aren’t viable. And as long as we’re funding under the levels of Arlington and Alexandria, the notion of cutting aides is preposterous.

  • Dave McKenna

    MdB now wants to cut funding for DC's grammar school kids and raise tuition for DC's college kids. I think he's been riding his bike without a helmet...

  • Mike DeBonis

    So a corollary to your argument, Mr. Wemple, must be that there are no managerial efficiencies to be reaped at DCPS by reducing support staff? Because DCPS is arguing: that they are "direct[ing] resources where they will have the greatest impact on student achievement by increasing the funds going directly to the schools and classrooms. Of the total DCPS budget, $603 million will go directly to support schools, an increase from the FY 2009 number of $587 million." I'm sure Mary Levy (WCP's Best Wonk 2008) will be debunking those figures very soon, but I'm sure even she would stipulate there's a corps of non-teaching employees at DCPS whose removal would be no more or less harmful to student achievement, Mr. Wemple, than say removing folks down at DMV or DDOT. Which gets back to this point: We don't know who is getting fired: Dan Tan was awful vague this morning. So for all we now we might be talking about a dozen aides and a whole bunch of cafeteria workers---and we all know how advances in cafeteria technology have made lunchladies obsolete!

    Then there's this point: Holding out entire agencies as being sacred to budget cuts is a bad way to do business. Isn't it cliched and patronizing to say, gee, we shouldn't look at DCPS staffing _because they're kids_? Isn't that, Mr. Wemple, how we ended up with the bloated government that sent the District into federal control? Don't you have to applaud Tangerlini's "zero-base" attitude looking at agencies this year from the ground up to look at staffing from an absolute rather than a relative perspective? DON'T YOU, Mr. Wemple?

    Also, Mr. Wemple, you need to hew to the cardinal rule of budget debates: Every time you propose pumping money somewhere, you need to pick a place to pump it from!

  • Erik Wemple

    "Lunchladies," huh, esteemed colleague? The sexism in this sliver of your argument invalidates all other points that you've sought to make here.

  • Mike DeBonis

    Game, set, match.

  • TD

    Cutting education during economic stress caused by long term fundamentals is like burning your coat to keep warm

  • IMGoph

    mr. wemple: better check your reporter's spelling. there are a few typos here...