In the last issue of themail, I wrote that Chancellor Rhee and Mayor Fenty had lost the trust of DCPS and government employees. And that was before the events of Monday and Tuesday that Dorothy recounts below. Fenty told the council on Monday that he had no idea how the Washington Teachers Union contract was funded in the budget he had submitted. Rhee told councilmembers on Tuesday that, although she had claimed in October 2009 that DCPS would have a $43 million deficit in fiscal year 2010 that required her to fire 388 DCPS employees, including 266 teachers, she now claimed that DCPS would actually have a fiscal year 2010 surplus of $34 million that would fund teachers’ raises and retroactive pay raises in fiscal year 2011.
Rhee and Fenty have been busy inventing consecutive cover stories ever since. The problem, they claimed, was an arithmetic error, a miscalculation, that made them really think there would be a deficit. The problem was all the Chief Financial Officer’s fault; the CFO makes a good fall guy. There wasn’t really a problem, since the false budget numbers the city presented to a judge fooled him, and convinced him that the phony deficit was real, and that it justified firing the teachers. The judge’s accepting DCPS’s fake numbers proves the fake numbers were real. There wasn’t really a problem for the teachers union, since unions aren’t built on a brotherhood of workers protecting each other and looking out for their common interest, and the surviving teachers should be happy to take raises funded by blood money, by firing their fellow union members. Union members should look to the future, and forget the wrong done to their fellow union members in the long-ago past, just a few months ago. The problem wasn’t Fenty’s and Rhee’s failure to inform the council or the public when they “discovered” a $34 million surplus in the DCPS budget, since the DCPS and the mayor have no duty to inform the public or the council of anything.
Why hasn’t any cover story lasted for more than a few hours? Because all the cover stories lead to one conclusion. Fenty and Rhee will say anything they need to say to justify doing what they want to do, and they don’t care about the real-life damage they do to government workers or city residents. Rhee was asked whether she would consider using the surprising surplus to rehire wrongfully fired teachers, and her response was screw them.
Now the city council begins its process of overseeing the city’s budget, and it has to do its oversight with an entirely new attitude, informed by its experience with Rhee and the DCPS budget. It has to expect that any budget submitted to it for any agency, department, or program is susceptible to manipulation with the intent to deceive, to deceive them or the public.
Dorothy Brizill, firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday morning, I attended the administrative meeting that councilmembers held with School Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Washington Teachers Union President George Parker in order to be briefed on the newly negotiated WTU contract. The meeting, held in Chairman Vincent Gray’s fifth floor conference room at the Wilson Building, followed by one day the council’s contentious budget hearing with the mayor, City Administrator Neil Albert, and Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi. At that Monday hearing, Mayor Fenty and City Administrator Neil Albert were unable to point to any line item in the budget where the contract raises promised to the teachers were funded. They were stumped when they were pressed on whether the $140 million cost of the contract was adequately funded in the FY 2011 budget that the Mayor had submitted to the council on April 1, and Mayor Fenty told the council that Chancellor Rhee would be able to explain the funding to them on Tuesday.
At the Tuesday meeting, attendees included Rhee; Parker; Councilmembers Gray, Alexander, Barry Bowser, K. Brown, M. Brown, Catania, Evans, Graham, Mendelson, and Wells; DC Auditor Deborah Nickles; senior staffers from the office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, and representative from the American Federation of Teachers. Rhee astounded everyone there when she announced that DC Public Schools would fund the contract by using a “newly found” surplus of $34 million for this fiscal year. Some of the atmosphere of the meeting was given in reports in the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/14/AR2010041404847.html) and the Washington Examiner (http://tinyurl.com/ybcqc7a). Here are some other emotional reactions by Councilmembers to Rhee’s revelation. Barry: “It is clear to me that we didn’t need to have a RIF.” Catania: “I don’t have any confidence in your [Rhee’s] numbers.” Catania: “A cynic . . . [would not that it is] too convenient that an appropriate number of teachers were RIFed [in order] to fund the pay increases [in the WTU contract]. Catania: “I am suspicious of the process.” Graham: “Why did you [Rhee] wait until this moment to say this?” Gray: “We [the councilmembers] are all stunned.” K. Brown: “Looks like shenanigans.” Gray: “If I was one of the 266 individuals [teachers] who had lost their jobs, I would be ready to put my hands around someone’s throat and squeeze.” Gray: “People lost their jobs over a budget deficit which did not exist.” Wells: “This was an error, or was it manufactured.” Gray: “Some people’s pay raise [under the new WTU contract] was funded by someone else’s job.”
DC Teachers’ Tentative Agreement: “Buyer Beware”
Nathan A. Saunders, General Vice President, WTU, email@example.com
DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee and WTU President George Parker announced a tentative agreement (TA) after three years amid protests of a group of wrongfully terminated teachers and now former union members, who lost their medical benefits, life insurance, and voting rights. Since that time, the news media has been regurgitating the well prepared press package without investigation or analysis. Despite their unfounded reports of soon-to-be-rich public school teachers, the TA delivers less. Teachers have not received mailed copies of the TA and the Internet version at WTUlocal6.org does not include the side agreement letters, yet it advertises “the entire” TA.
Teachers’ rights in the contract are ambiguous and vague, and use unresolved terms. The words “tenure” and “seniority,” while preserved, are irrelevant, as their meaning is gutted and without substance. A troubling section is Performance Based Pay; it is incomplete and states it will be developed later — yet Performance Based Excessing is oppressive — establishing quick terminations within sixty days. For Rhee, the contract is specific, binding, and punitive; for teachers, it is incomplete, indefinite, and unenforceable. Rhee has made the jobs of the DC city council, mayor, foundations, and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) child’s play with Article 40, et. seq. (P.103):
ARTICLE 40 - SUFFICIENT FUNDS
40.1 The Parties agree that all provisions of this Agreement are subject to the availability of funds.
40.2 Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as a promise that Congress, the DC Council, or any other organization shall appropriate sufficient funds to meet the obligations set forth in this Agreement.
40.3 DCPS agrees to provide financial certification that DCPS can meet the obligations of this contract before moving toward final approval. The parties agree that the failure to provide the funds to meet the obligations of the Agreement pertaining to base salary, benefits (defined as the provisions governing optical, dental and legal benefits), and mutual consent, is a material breach of contract by DCPS. The consequences of that breach will be settled by a court or an arbitrator, unless otherwise negotiated by the Parties.
The TA creates no financial liability on any entity. It does not have the full faith and credit security of the DC government. As a result, teachers are not guaranteed a 21 percent raise or a 0 percent raise but teachers will jeopardize 100 percent of their current salary. Because of Article 40, CFO Gandhi could approve the TA’s financial soundness without using his calculator, that is, if he and others (DC city council and the US Congress) are as eager to shortchange teachers as Rhee and Parker. Article 40 language is an entirely new low standard to WTU contracts. Nothing is certain including the bonus, the base salary, the promise or the requirement for the DC Government to even appropriate the funds! Teachers risk everything without any assurances. Article 40.1 and 40.2 are failure to pay escape clause provisions which would cause any breach of contract lawsuit to wilt. Article 40.3 is unnecessary gibberish as all breach of contract issues are court adjudicated based on common law principles. The “Article 40 style trickery” permeates the entire TA. Those believing the courts would not allow a bad deal to exist must think again. Courts do not inquire into the value of promises negotiators make to one another. The number or quality of promises made by DCPS or WTU is not the business of the court. Therefore, teachers could ratify a bad deal and have no legal recourse.
Rhee’s education philosophy translates into “terminating teachers helps children,” and teachers voting for ratification will be endorsing her. Churning teachers in and out of classrooms will affect students negatively. Some voters for ratification may be seduced by Wal-Mart and Enron foundation money, but they could join ranks of the DC unemployed. Teaching jobs are hard to find even for experienced, certified teachers — ask the protesters. With the DC government running a $530 million deficit and calls to reduce DCPS spending, ratifying an unsecured, non-pensionable, and unenforceable TA could create hundreds of unemployed teachers. Most teachers, who are committed to students’ well being, the teaching profession, and their family’s economic security, will say no to ratification.
Michelle Rhee: Time to Call It Quits
Richard Urban, Rurban@RUforDC.com
Michelle Rhee reported to the DC city council on Tuesday that she knew in February that there were surplus funds available. However, she did not report that information to the council. This revelation comes on the heels of the contention that Ms. Rhee knew very well that teachers would have to be laid off (266 were laid off) to accurate her hiring of nine hundred new teachers. Michelle Rhee has shown contempt for honesty and transparency.
In November 2007, ULTRA Teen Choice, the nonprofit that I co-founded, was told to stop our programs at DC Public Schools (http://www.ultrateenchoice.org/c_LSRT_&_DCPS_emails_631_English.htm) because “there is a moratorium on all outside health providers.” It turned out that there was no such moratorium. I attempted to ring the alarm bell about an administrator who subverts rules and due process to suit her own agenda. It turned out that Ms. Rhee was upset that I did not support new health standards that required teaching that same sex relationships are normal, beginning in the sixth grade. This spring, I found out that Ms. Rhee, instead of following DC law, which specifies that after-school providers that work with DCPS do not have to have their own liability insurance, forces providers to carry a million dollars in liability insurance. When I brought up the point that DC Code does not require this insurance, the out-of-school time office simply said that those were the rules that the Chancellor was applying, law or no law.
Ms. Rhee has repeatedly shown contempt for oversight, transparency, due process, parental rights, and teachers rights. In the name of supposed reform, she has created distrust among administrators and teachers. She has blocked many community organizations that want to help youths in DC Public Schools from working in the schools. At Ludlow Taylor elementary school, she met with parents who didn’t have children in DCPS while ignoring parents whose children were currently enrolled there. Ms. Rhee has accused teachers in DC Public schools of sexual misconduct, while covering up for her fiancee, Kevin Johnson, who was accused of making sexual advances on AmeriCorps students under his supervision (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/nov/21/hill-report-names-dc-schools-chief/). It is time for Michelle Rhee to call it quits, and for DC Public Schools to be returned to the control of an elected school board.
It's okay! Michelle Rhee found $34 million in the pocket of her winter coat. Get this incompetent, lying, teacher-hating weasel out of our lives D. C. Council members!
Budget that prompted D.C. teacher firings is now being used to fund teacher raises
By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 13, 2010; 2:27 PM
Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, who laid off 266 teachers in October to help close what she said was a $43 million budget gap, told the D.C. Council on Monday that raises for educators under a proposed labor contract would be paid for in part by a $34 million surplus in that same budget.
Council members expressed astonishment at Rhee's disclosure, which came during a morning meeting to discuss the tentative contract settlement with the Washington Teachers' Union announced last week. It is likely to revive charges among some council and union members that Rhee manipulated last year's budget process to execute the layoffs, and could well complicate deliberations over the proposed labor deal. The pact must be ratified by both the union and the council.
"This just gets curiouser and curiouser," said council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1).
Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray said it appeared that the layoffs, which triggered weeks of stormy public hearings, students protests, teacher rallies and a union lawsuit, might have been unnecessary. He also said the council should have been apprised of the surplus, which Rhee said she learned about in January -- about two months after the terminated teachers were dropped from the District payroll.
Gray, who is challenging Rhee's boss, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) in the September mayoral primary, said if he were a laid-off teacher, he'd be livid. "I'd be about ready to put my hands around somebody's throat," he said.
He added: "People lost their jobs under a budget deficit that didn't exist. That's what I heard today."
Rhee said that based on data she received from Noah Wepman, then the school system's chief financial officer, the budget gap was legitimate and that she had no choice but to address it. She added that the District's contention was upheld by a judge in the union's lawsuit challenging the layoffs.
"The evidence very clearly showed that at the time we had a budget pressure," Rhee said.
Teachers union President George Parker, who also attended the meeting, said he was not aware of the surplus. He left the session without comment.
The meeting started with what appeared to be heartening news for the council, which had raised numerous questions at a Monday budget hearing about how the proposed contract -- which promises teachers a 20 percent pay increase over five years -- would be financed in a tight fiscal environment.
Rhee said that raises in the first two years of the five-year agreement, which are retroactive base salary hikes of 3 percent each for 2008 and 2009, would be paid for by $22 million in unspent federal funding. Rhee explained that the third year of the pact, which calls for a 4 percent raise in the current fiscal year, would be financed by a $34 million surplus. She said that spending on teacher salaries was running at lower-than-expected rates, creating an unexpected pot of money.
Council members were incredulous.
"It's just too convenient," said council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), who likened the school system's budgeting process to a "three-card monte game."
Council member Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) asked Rhee whether she would be willing to consider reinstating the 266 laid-off teachers in light of the new budget situation. Rhee said no.
"Because we are in a completely different situation now," she said.
Members also expressed unhappiness with District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M.Gandhi, who made no mention of the surplus at Monday's hearing, which lasted more than five hours.
"That is a problem. That is a huge, huge, huge problem," Brown said.