Thursday, September 17, 2009

Teacher Reductions and Budget Shortfalls, Oh My!

Today, DCPS educators got this email in their inboxes from Michelle Rhee:

September 16, 2009
To all DCPS staff members,

As you know, at this point in the school year, we are engaged in the annual equalization process -- adjusting school budgets, staffing, and other resources so that they align to actual student enrollment. Equalization adjusts resources based on an individual school's actual enrollment. It can mean a plus or minus in a school budget, depending on that enrollment. As you also know, we make these budget modifications every year.

This year DCPS faces an added complication because, due to DC Council budget reductions over the summer, we are facing a budget shortfall for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010. Central office will absorb this shortfall to the maximum extent possible. But because we have pushed as much funding as possible out from central and into school budgets, the single greatest expenditure in DCPS is now school-based personnel. Therefore, there is no way to effect a reduction of this magnitude without impacting positions at schools.

Accordingly, many of our schools will be losing positions as of
September 30, 2009. These funding adjustments will be consistent with current enrollment at each individual school. We will utilize a Reduction in Force (RIF), which will allow principals to consider several factors, including the needs of the school and the performance of staff in order to determine which positions will be eliminated and which positions will be retained. This RIF will be implemented
consistent with the requirements of 5 DCMR Chapter 15.

Every school reduction will be made in the best interest of students. We are committed to minimizing the impact that any reductions will have on the quality of academic programs, and we will work tirelessly with principals to ensure a smooth transition for all of our students,
schools and personnel. Our students and their achievement are, as always, our priority.

Michelle Rhee

Hmmm. Well, isn't that interesting. Kind of scary, no? Personal fears of termination aside, I'd hate to lose staff from our school. From what I've seen so far this year, everyone seems to be doing really well. This is certainly a bummer.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't snarkily mock the rumor mills and fear mongering that have already begun in full. Some are already accusing Rhee of fudging numbers so that she can eliminate certain teachers. According to some, Rhee is lying about enrollment numbers, unfairly penalizing certain schools, and plotting to target certain people. She probably also personally manufactured the recession so that a budget shortfall would ensue. She's so crafty! If Michelle Rhee were smart and powerful enough to mastermind all of the things she's been accused of doing, she'd be a Google supercomputer.

Michelle Rhee certainly isn't perfect, but there's no way she's as much of an evil genius as some people claim. If she were, she'd either be making millions in private industry or running the Korean mafia.


kings said...

“she'd either be making millions in private industry or running the Korean mafia.”

Brilliant, Harry, those are probably her plans for when she leaves DC.

Doesn’t it seem odd that she’s contacting parents about the RIF before informing teachers?

Isn’t it a little strange that enrollment is up but the need for teachers is down?

Kings said...

oops - my mistake - the letter you posted was sent to teachers. I got confused because Candi Peterson, on her blog, posted a letter that is going to students tomorrow to take home to their parents.

Nice way to start the school year, effectively -- "We care about your kids; their teachers may get pulled out of class in the middle of the semester. Sorry"

meaningful change said...

The whole process of taking staff away from schools a month into the school year was one of the most destabilizing things that happened in DCPS every school year for years.

Why did Rhee not plan better? She knew this was coming because the City Council made this decision months ago. This is especially troublesome since the overall enrollment is at the numbers predicted. So what was she waiting for? It sounds like all schools will be affected whether or not they are over enrolled, although those that are under enrolled will have deeper cuts.

Kat said...

Kings, you're confusing staffing based on enrollment with staffing based on a budget. The latter trumps the former every time: if there ain't no money, there ain't no money...and it doesn't matter how many students you have.

Meaningful Change, the budget debate months ago was not the one that is causing this. Remember, they restored the budget then. This latest cutback decision was made by the Council last month. Every DC agency has had to cut back and schools just couldn't be spared any longer.

That said, really, anyone who reads the Post or keeps herself reasonably abreast of DC news could see this coming. We've been hearing about layoffs in every other industry for over a year and about layoffs in education in surrounding counties since last spring.

Harry, you're dead on in your criticism of those who think the economy is part of Rhee's master plan. But come on, you expected that, didn't you? I hear the simultaneous drought/floods in Mexico are her fault, too.

Pat said...

You need to get DCPS to register with eBay Giving Works...

I bet some eBay people would give money to help the budget problems.

The Writing is on the Wall said...

So Harry, you are saying that Rhee didn't see any of this coming?

Enrollment in DCPS has been declining for years, yet Rhee decides to hire 900 new teachers over the summer. ??

I don't know what would be worse, a plan to bloat the teaching corps so she could RIF teachers, or being so incompetent that she couldn't plan a few months ahead.

And for those of you who are saying that her actions are based on new Council cuts, read the 9/18 WaPo article that even has Fenty's Council buddy Jack Evans stating that there were no new cuts made by the Council.

When the facts don't add up it makes sense to place intention behind her actions.

So which one is it Harry? Intentional bloating or incompetence?

The Writing is on the Wall said...

"...she'd either be making millions in private industry...."

Who needs to work in private industry when your salary is $250K+ plus a driver and car plus an expense account?

Besides, once she's finished outsourcing DCPS to private companies, she can quit and make millions running one of the companies servicing a gutted DCPS.

Anonymous said...

Gray released a statement and documents showing that the council has not cut anything. Rhee has been trying all year to get rid of the teachers she feels must go - regardless of the quality of those teachers. If a teacher was excessed this year they shouldn' hold their breath - they are on the chopping block. That is the writing on the wall. Odd how the same people now citing the economy were arguing not so long ago that we should go for the green contract.

Reality check said...

By your previous posts I know you are a Rhee cheer leader who defends all criticisms of her. Do you work in a school? Everyone who I talk to whether they are TFAs, Teaching Fellows, veteran teachers, whoever, all are stressed out and pissed off.

In terms of your comment: "That said, really, anyone who reads the Post or keeps herself reasonably abreast of DC news could see this coming. We've been hearing about layoffs in every other industry for over a year and about layoffs in education in surrounding counties since last spring".

I am not sure what you are talking about I haven't heard of "every other industry" hiring 900 people only to lay a bunch off within months. RHEE DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO RUN A SCHOOL SYSTEM. It is that simple.

Kat, try to imagine yourself as a DCPS parent who now has to worry about your child being stuck in overcrowded classrooms with limited course offerings. This is the reality we are dealing with.

Kat said...

Actually, I'm not a Rhee cheerleader. You'd be surprised at how I respond to the frequent requests I get from people to tell them what I think of Rhee. There are thinks that I like about her, and things I don't. But what I really can't stand are the knee-jerk opinions and delusional theories that populate some of the DC teacher blogs. I like this blog because he's open-minded about what he sees and experiences, unlike the WTU mouthpiece we all know and love.

You'd also be surprised to hear how people outside the system -- i.e. those many, many DC residents not in education but who vote and donate to local political campaigns -- think of Rhee. They love her. Unequivocally. You know, the people in Jack Evans' ward...who want to see Rhee continue with her plan even as they become disillusioned with Fenty. (The same people whom Evans relied on to re-elect him last year and in every election going back 18 years.)

Btw, I work "in the system," too. I did not come here on the reform bandwagon, nor via TFA, NLNS, or DCTF/TNTP. I just applied for a job, and I got it.

I'm just not a conspiracy theorist. I haven't been so damaged by DCPS (like many people I work with) that I attribute every bad thing that happens on this planet to 825/Rhee. I like reality to temper my opinions on occasion. I'm blessed/cursed with the ability to see both sides of an argument. I'm okay with holding informed yet unpopular views.

And no, I don't have a child in the system, so I have the luxury of leaving my emotions out of it. However, I am vested at the paycheck level, which in some ways is worse.

rollingmyeyes said...

I don't think that it's all a big conspiracy, bit I do think that Rhee was too stubborn and to quick to pat herself in the back for that ridiculous "rediscover DCPS" campaign to lure children back that she actually believed that the enrollment would go up that much. I am surprised that it did go up a lot, but still, hiring people to just let them go a month later is a nightmare for everyone: the staff at HR, the teachers, principals, kids, etc. Regardless of who gets chosen to go, it reflects piss poor planning.

Reality check said...

I am not a conspiracy theorist either and I definitely don't agree that people should be saying as fact that Rhee is making up enrollment numbers. That said, I know she regularly makes statements that are exaggerations and are just not true so I also would not say she is reporting the enrollment numbers accurately. I would just assume that she is telling the truth at this point.

I can speak from first hand experience about Rhee's problems with misrepresenting the truth. One example is with my school opening last year completely unfinished.

Rhee came to our school and had the media follow her to one classroom that was fully outfitted. Meanwhile dozens of other classrooms sat sorely supplied. Teachers were instructed on what to say to reporters if asked. All of us were really upset but everyone was too afraid to speak out. This is just one of several examples I have witnessed.

In response to your last post, you say that you are not a Rhee cheer leader. What concerns with her policies/practices?

Also, the fact that there are people who love Rhee and think she is doing a great job means almost nothing. I have spoken to some of those people and they really don't have an understanding of what is really going on. Remember there were millions of people who supported George Bush. Does this mean that his policies were great for our country?

One last thing. Can you respond to my comment, "I haven't heard of "every other industry" hiring 900 people only to lay a bunch off within months". I want to understand how you can defend this?

Kat said...

"...the fact that there are people who love Rhee and think she is doing a great job means almost nothing."

Au contraire. I'm gonna be brutally frank: the people who love Rhee don't give a crap what happens to DCPS teachers because those people think all DCPS teachers suck. They have no sympathy for them. I don't have to tell you where they live, what they look like or how much money they have because you already know. You're right, they don't know the inner workings of DCPS...nor do they care. Your description of the media event at your school would elicit little more than a yawn.

But they do provide money to politicians to ensure that the policies/practices they support remain in place. Like Rhee. They sit on the boards of foundations, manage agencies and wield a lot of influence in this city. And they don't want to see her go. Just look at Fenty, whose re-election depends on her. And this next election is "his to lose."

All this screaming and hollering from the WTU rank and file? I hate to say it, but it means nothing. No one outside "the system" really cares that things are getting shaken up or (mis)managed.

Sorry, but that's the truth.

Anonymous said...

Kat, do you really know some of these movers and shakers for Fenty? I do. And you've got it wrong. Most of them are just plain fed up with the kind of stuff they have been reading in the papers - even in the edited-in-Fenty's-favor-Washington Post. These are people who put up the money, put in the time, have the mayor's ear and are more than a little unsatisfied. More than one of them has said given one credible opponent and Fenty is gone. They actually do care about more than the flash and sparkle of a showboat. They have eyes and they see that really very little has changed.

Reality check said...


Again you failed to respond to my question about your original comment. To refresh your memory, I said: "I am not sure what you are talking about I haven't heard of 'every other industry' hiring 900 people only to lay a bunch off within months." Please do share.

Also, if you are not a Rhee cheer leader, what are some of concerns you have with her policies or actions this far. I am just asking because I am wondering where in "the system" you work? Is it at a school or at central office. I have to ask because quotes like, "All this screaming and hollering from the WTU rank and file?" really make me question whether or not you are in the trenches.

I know you could give a crap what many parents and teachers think since the movers and shakers appear to support Rhee, but I think people are in for a rude awakening. You can't keep shitting on people and instilling the fear of God in them and not get blow back. It has started and we will be seeing more of it.

So when do you want to respond to my questions? I am always happy to answer any and all questions asked of me since that is how we can move forward.

Anonymous said...

Your silence is defeaning. Why can't you respond to other posters questions since you are so quick to judge?