Show Us the Money

DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Say, you might ask, whatever happened to the teacher’s union contract?

What happened to that $34 million-dollar deficit or that surplus that wasn’t there?

And how are Chief Financial Officer Natwar Ghandi and DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee getting along?

Last time we looked, things looked mighty confusing on the budget front. Rhee and Gandhi were arguing while testifying before the city council on money matters, Gandhi arguing a) there wasn’t any surplus and b) he wouldn’t sign off on control by parties providing private funding.

But now it seems everything, we’re happy to say, is fine and dandy. Sort of.

On May 11, the Washington Post, the District schools and the mayor reported that the city was set to fund the teachers contract, its pay raises, retroactive and current. That agreement, which would cause $38 million in cuts elsewhere in the District budget, would pave the way for an eventual teachers’ union members vote on the contract, worth $140 million.

Mayor Fenty, Rhee and Gandhi appeared together at the announcement to give the appearance of unity. The solution of cuts in the budget, shifting of stimulus funds and private funds at a later date, appeared okay with Gandhi. The agreement must now await a rank and file vote by union members.

Meantime, Rhee has been busy. She announced that she will double the number of senior managers for public schools in the form of “instructional superintendents” with salaries ranging from $120,000 to $150,000. She also announced recently that DCPS would be hiring 400 new teachers.

But some answers still remain hazy. Where is all this money for new hires coming from when just a week ago we heard so much talk of surpluses that weren’t there and deficits that were? If it comes purely from budget cuts, lauded as the perfect stopgap, the District will still pull funding away from public programs on an already spare pocketbook, and just might find itself in a similar pecuniary pickle down the road. The mayor’s solution may not be as elegant as he would have us believe, and it warrants closer scrutiny.

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