Fenty ‘Scapegoating’ Council on DCPS Teacher Cuts, Gray Says
Yesterday, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced that the D.C. Public Schools had to cut $40 million from its budget, due in part, they explained, to budget cuts made this summer by the D.C. Council.
This morning, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray fired off a scathing 800-word press release "to provide clarifying facts so the public is not misled about the Council's involvement in this Fenty Administration policy decision."
But not only does Gray go through "clarifying facts"—basically rehashing the enrollment dispute of earlier this summer—but he goes on to accuse Fenty and Rhee of "effectively exploiting the city's fiscal situation to implement its desired reductions in the teacher workforce."
If that isn't plain enough for you: "The $20.7 million...the Fenty Administration alleges the Council "cut" is 2.7 percent of the DCPS FY 10 budget—hardly a substantial sum that has to be recouped by firing teachers. Clearly, the Chancellor wanted to fire these "excessed" teachers and is seeking to scapegoat the Council for her policy decision." [emphasis Gray's]
In today's Washington Post story about proposed DCPS teacher cuts, D.C. quotemaster general Terry Lynch said he hopes the move would not prompt "another round of political or budgetary gamesmanship between the chancellor and the council."
Consider your hopes dashed, Terry.
Here's the full release (all emphasis Gray's):
Chairman Gray Challenges Mayor and Chancellor's Assertion the Council Reduced DCPS Budget for Fiscal Year 2010
Washington DC—Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced yesterday (Wednesday) the annual DCPS Equalization Process has begun, and according to them, as a result, DCPS must conduct a reduction-in-force (RIF) and decrease individual school budgets because the Council of the District of Columbia reduced the DCPS FY 10 budget. Chairman Gray today released the following statement to provide clarifying facts so the public is not misled about the Council's involvement in this Fenty Administration policy decision.
The Council approved a $770 million budget for DCPS for FY 10 based on the per pupil student funding formula of $8,945 per student and a projected enrollment of 44,681 students in school year (SY) 2009-10.
The proposed budget for public education, including DCPS and charter schools, projected an enrollment increase which equated to $27.5 million. The Council questioned the validity of that increase because DCPS enrollment historically has declined over the past 10 years. Therefore, it set aside the $27.5 million until the actual enrollment could be substantiated.
On June 1, 2009, after the Chairman convened a meeting to discuss public school enrollment projections for SY 09-10, the Chancellor wrote a letter to him that stated,
"I understand and recognize that questioning the DCPS enrollment projections is both warranted and appropriate. The current economic crisis only heightens the importance of the enrollment projections. I understand your hesitance to accept the projected increase in enrollment across the District. I cannot guarantee that this will occur. To that end, we concur in the following proposal:
1) For fiscal year 2010, DCPS is funded at the audited enrollment figure approved by the independent auditor and based upon the verified October 6, 2008 count of 44,681 students."
Based on this agreement, $24 million of the $27.5 million that was set aside was restored to the public education budget. Now the Mayor and Chancellor claim the Council "cut" $3.5 million ($27.5 million – $24 million) from the DCPS budget even though the Chancellor concurred with funding in accord with the most recent audited enrollment.
In response to new revenue reductions provided by the Chief Financial Officer in late June, the Council also decided to not provide an inflation adjustment of 2 percent as originally proposed in the FY 10 budget ($8.1 million total), and reduced the budget for summer school by 50 percent ($9.1 million total). The Council is currently researching ways to restore funding for summer school, which does not begin until late June 2010.
Since the Council funded the public schools at last year's levels and with inflation holding constant, there was no reduction in the DCPS budget as the Mayor and Chancellor portray it. And, the Chairman is perplexed how a reduction in summer school funding (1.2 percent of the total DCPS budget) requires principals to reduce their budgets and for teachers to be RIF'd. He is alarmed the Administration informed principals to plan for drastic reductions in their budgets – effectively exploiting the city's fiscal situation to implement its desired reductions in the teacher workforce.
The $20.7 million ($3.5 million + $8.1 million + $9.1 million) the Fenty Administration alleges the Council "cut" is 2.7 percent of the DCPS FY 10 budget—hardly a substantial sum that has to be recouped by firing teachers. Clearly, the Chancellor wanted to fire these "excessed" teachers and is seeking to scapegoat the Council for her policy decision.
The Council approved a balanced budget for FY 10 that preserves the long-term fiscal stability of the city while funding the District of Columbia Public Schools and charter schools at last year's funding levels. While these teacher dismissals are within the Mayor's purview, the Council strenuously disagrees with the unilateral decision to reduce the teacher workforce and cut local school budgets, and will not allow the Mayor and Chancellor to place the blame for these decisions at the Council's doorstep.
Moreover, in his review of the FY 10 budget in the aftermath of the Council's action on July 31, the Mayor vetoed one item—the budget for the State Board of Education. In his letter of August 26 to the Chairman communicating the line-item veto, the Mayor not only approved the DCPS budget but made no reference to the DCPS budget whatsoever.
"In the midst of our nation's worse economic recession since the Great Depression, and at a time when states and cities are being forced to drastically slash their education budgets, layoff teachers, and delay the start of school, the Council found a way to fully fund the public education budget at last year's levels while effectively closing a budget gap of nearly $140 million," Chairman Gray said. "The Mayor and Chancellor's attempts to characterize the Council's action as a reduction are disingenuous and simply not accurate."