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Since he moved last month to hold $27 million from the D.C. Public Schools budget over an enrollment dispute, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray has been pleading for an answer to a simple question: Where are the schoolchildren that DCPS is projecting will enroll this fall—-more than 3,000 more than if longstanding trends hold—-going to come from?
Now Gray’s crowing, because he says DCPS Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has admitted he has a point in a letter sent to him yesterday.
In the letter, Rhee cites the work of independent researchers in coming up with the projections, but writes, “I understand your hesitance to accept the projected increase in enrollment….Based upon the assumptions we outlined…we believe we have sound evidence and data to suggest that DCPS’s enrollment of October 2009 will increase slightly….However, as I shared with you Friday, I cannot guarantee that this will occur.”
Gray sees vindication therein: “Basically, what I think it says is [that] I think we’ll be proven right on the number,” Gray said this morning at the council breakfast meeting. “It says in a lot of words that they don’t know where 3,073 people are coming from.”
As for a modus vivendi, a compromise has been fashioned: The council will vote today to restore DCPS funding on the October 2008 enrollment figure—-meaning DCPS is free to spend about $24 million of the $27 million that council had threatened to place in escrow. The remaining $3 million will be set aside pending an audit of the fall enrollment.
For next year, however, Rhee and Gray have agreed to work together to “develop a uniform method by which enrollment projections will be completed by both DCPS and the charter schools.” That would aim to end the inequity in the mechanics of charter funding versus DCPS funding: Charters have to refund money accepted due to overprojections, but DCPS doesn’t.