The Blame Game, Again



-Remember that big, rollout announcement that the Washington Teachers’ Union and Chancellor Michelle Rhee had finally reached an agreement on the teacher’s contract?

The pact announcement was a big feather in the caps of both Rhee and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who are joined at the political hip in their quest for reforming District schools.

So what’s happened? Well, nothing, sort of.

The pact, which would need to have the approval of CFO Natwar Gandhi and the city council, as well as ratification by the teacher’s union membership, remains in limbo. The problem — actually, make that problems, are:

Among other things, the pact calls for 20 percent pay increases over 5 years for the teachers. Part of that money was supposed to come from private funding, the rest from DCPS.

Except it appears — and appears is the operating word — the money isn’t there. Not according to Gandhi, who’s also objecting to the private funding. Initially, Rhee had stunned everyone by announcing that there was a surplus in the budget, which led to a lot of acrimonious revisiting of the firing of nearly 300 teachers last fall.

But Gandhi says there is no surplus, and that there is, in fact, a deficit. Both Rhee and Gandhi testified last week, but could only offer uncertainties. Councilmembers complained that no one seemed to have a handle on the numbers.

Gandhi complained that the private funding comes with unacceptable conditions and allows the funders too much control.

Rhee and some council members blamed the CFO’s office for not providing accurate numbers. Union leaders fretted over the confusion, which holds up a contract vote.

All parties are searching for ways to cut the DCPS budget, and to find additional moneys.
Meantime, there’s recrimination — again — blame gaming and confusion. That’s certainly not a healthy way to conduct either contract negotiations or budget planning.

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