Budget Sliced for Office Evaluating School Construction, Reuse of Schools
This morning's Washington Post includes a story about the council mark-up on the mayor's budget. Deputy mayor for education Victor Reinoso is getting hit the hardest—84 percent of his budget is being cut, taking it from $4 million to $778,000.
[Council Chair Vincent] Gray has long been unhappy with Reinoso, whose portfolio includes oversight of the school construction agency, reuse of surplus school buildings and the coordination of social services in schools.
In recent public hearings, Reinoso has come under attack from Gray, who charged that he has failed to create a coherent vision for his office and has been unresponsive to the council.
The cuts would disperse many of his responsibilities to D.C. public schools and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.
Gray denied that he wanted to marginalize Reinoso because of tensions with Fenty over everything from baseball tickets to education policy.
"The reality is, I don't think he functions very well," Gray said. "I don't think there has been any value added. This has nothing to do with the last two or three weeks. It has to do with my observations over the last two years."
Yikes! A lot has happened within the realm of school construction/reuse in the past year or so: Last June, 23 schools closed. This winter, the mayor solicited proposals to redevelop 11 schools. Does this really just come down to the petty stuff—the "tensions with Fenty over everything from baseball tickets to education policy?" A March Loose Lips column dug into the entire conflict, and yeah, there's petty stuff there—like the fact that Reinoso doesn't make council hearings a priority. But the problems can be traced to the very beginning of Reinoso's tenure in his position:
The bad blood between Gray and Reinoso goes back a ways—Gray famously refused to move the deputy mayor’s confirmation till the last minute—but the recent tussle dates to last summer, when a passel of school construction contracts totaling tens of millions came to the council. Those contracts were a mess—poorly documented and submitted at the last minute—so councilmembers filed disapproval resolutions in order to hold hearings on the expenditures.
That prompted a round of hand-wringing about Gray’s supposed obstructionism, including a scathing July 4 Washington Post editorial that, of course, found no fault with the Reinoso-Adrian Fenty-Michelle Rhee axis. Gray held a pair of hearings to get some answers on the contracts and the policy decisions behind them; Reinoso showed at neither, leaving facilities czar Allen Lew to (not) answer questions about the educational reasoning behind combining elementary and middle schools into K-8 buildings.
Image by Darrow Montgomery