Last week, on his way out of the door for a long weekend, LL threw up a post about how D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, faced with threats from the D.C. Council to cut $27 million from her fiscal 2010 budget over an enrollment dispute, had sent letters to her principals telling them that their budgets are set to be cut.
Therein, LL asked a couple of questions: Why cut teachers first? Aren’t there central-office savings to be reaped?
This week, some answers came to those questions, from DCPS spokesperson Jennifer Calloway. “DCPS has cut the central office budget to the bare minimum,” she writes in a statement, “reducing spending over the past 2 years while significantly increasing funding going directly to schools.”
“Central office,” by the way, is shorthand for all school-system functionaries who aren’t directly serving students in schools—-not just those who work at DCPS headquarters at 825 North Capitol Street. And if the central office has indeed been cut to the bone, Rhee will have accomplished quite something.
As LL detailed in a fall 2007 cover story, superintendents have been railing about a bloated DCPS headquarters for years. Rhee was granted the ability in late 2007 to fire central office employees at will; on one day last March, she fired nearly 100 employees working at 825 North Capitol.
Calloway points out that the proposed 2010 budget includes about $138 million in central office spending; $110 million of that are for “fixed costs” that include “utilities, food services, security, student data systems, payroll, human resources and procurement.”
Then there’s the matter of stimulus money. In the Fenty administration’s initial request for stimulus dollars, schools were made a top priority.
So why not tap some of that money? That, according to Bill Turque in the Washington Post, is what council Chairman Vincent C. Gray has been suggesting.
Calloway says that DCPS is entitled to $29.4 million in stimulus funds for next year, and that money has “already been rolled into the per-pupil funding formula” for the year. “This money is not an independent piece of the overall budget that can be reallocated at will,” she writes. As for an additional $42 million in federal funds from the education department, she says, “We presented the federal government with a proposal that included specific innovations and reforms; therefore it is not an option to use the funds for other purposes.”
The budget tussle is set to come to a head Tuesday, when budget legislation comes up for a second and final vote—-and Rhee’s savvy politicking is put to the test.
“Ultimately, if the Council makes the decision that DCPS enrollment will be at 42,000 students,” Calloway writes, “the only responsible action we can take is to staff to that number.”