Washington Teachers’ Union President George Parker is urging union members to treat last year’s teacher layoff and a breakthrough contract proposal as “distinct issues” after the budgeting revelations earlier this month.

In a letter being sent to WTU members, Parker writes that while he was “surprised and angered” by Chancellor Michelle Rhee‘s recent claim of a a $34 million DCPS surplus mere months after 266 teachers were laid off for budgetary reasons, he believes both that laid-off teachers should be reinstated and the contract should be funded.

“While it may seem intuitive—in view of the possible budget surplus—to link the issues of funding for the new teacher contract with efforts to reinstate RIF’ed teachers, these important matters must be dealt with separately,” Parker writes. Efforts to reinstate the laid-off teachers “should not hinder the progress we have made on behalf of our schools, teachers and students in the new tentative contract.”

“The reinstatement of RIF’ed teachers and funding for the new contract are two distinct issues,” he writes, “that must be resolved fairly and thoughtfully.”

What Parker says he wants most of all is solid information on the DCPS fiscal situation: “Regardless of the existence—-or nonexistence—-of a budget surplus, the 266 teachers deserve answers and they deserve justice.” he writes. “Further, the entire D.C. community, parents, students and teachers deserve to know the truth about the school budget.”

Regarding the contract, he fends off charges that he negotiated pay raises on the backs of the fired teachers: “The WTU negotiation team bargained in good faith with the District with the understanding that funding was available to pay for the progressive reforms and all financial provisions of the agreement. It is important to note that the raises in the new tentative contract were not negotiated contingent on DCPS having a surplus in the 2009-2010 budget.”

He concludes: “We look forward to fiscal certification and financial approval by the chief financial officer and the city council as quickly as possible so that we can move forward and present the contract to you for a ratification vote.”