City Paper is not for tourists
Looks like Vince-‘n’-Victor show has turned into a bit more than a show. More than that, it looks like the baseball ticket feud between the council and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has given way to conflict much more substantive.
According to a budget report released tonight, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray is proposing to cut the office of Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso by some 80 percent. Where the mayor had proposed a $4.04 million budget for the office, Gray is proposing outlaying only $778,000 for the office. He proposes taking the office from 21 employees down to seven.
In other big news, all the lobbying by charter schools and their advocates has paid off: Gray’s looking to restore $16.7 million to the charter facilities budget (though not the full $24 million). Where did the council find much of the money to do so? From Fenty’s beloved summer jobs program.
The proposed reduction in the deputy mayor’s budget corresponds to a movement of various functions out of Reinoso’s shop and into others. Some agency oversight functions are being transferred to the State Superintendent of Education; the Interagency Collaboration and Service Integration Commission and its $2.3 million budget is being sent to the DCPS Office of Youth Engagement; and the schools ombudsman will fall under the State Board of Education’s purview.
As for charter facilities funding, under the committee plan, the method of funding will remain the same for another year, delaying the mayoral effort to move to a “cost-based” system. However, the formula will decrease from $3,100 per student to $2,800 per student.
If you think mayor-council relations were bad before, consider this a declaration of all-out war. Gray is taking direct aim at what Fenty considers the cornerstone of his mayoral legacy: public education reform. Reinoso was tasked with being Fenty’s big-picture, behind-the-scenes guy responsible for steering the whole educational ship in the District, from early education to charter schools to facilities management to DCPS to UDC. But Gray never saw much strategic direction out of Reinoso’s office, and it didn’t help that Reinoso repeatedly clashed with Gray when he testified before him—-if he testified at all.
That’s borne out by the report, which reads, “[S]ince the creation of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, no statewide education strategy has been created or established, even though approximately $2 billion is invested annually in public education in the District of Columbia, not including the District’s educational facilities capital program….The Committee is concerned that there is a continuing environment of uncoordinated efforts, initiatives, and budgets between early childhood education, the traditional public schools and charter schools, and the University of the District of Columbia, as well as the strategic planning of educational facilities for all public education sectors.”
The slap being delivered by raiding the Summer Youth Employment Program for $10 million is even more vicious for who is delivering it: Marion Barry, the father of the summer jobs program and current chair of the committee on housing and workforce development. It’s rare for a committee chair to willingly give up a huge chunk of the budget under his oversight, but make no mistake that Barry considers it worth it to send a message to Fenty.
The plan is still subject to a vote by the full council—-this is the committee of the whole, after all—-but expect Vince to have the votes on this one.
UPDATE, 12:30 A.M.: After having a closer look at the COW report, LL realizes he may have buried the lede. Gray is proposing to essentially triple the proposed budget of the State Board of Education and to make it “a separate entity within the District of Columbia Government, with sufficient resources and staff to fulfill its important mission.” That responds to concerns that, under the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the board did not have sufficient institutional distance from executive functions of government. But before you start thinking this is the second coming of Peggy Cooper Cafritz, read this: “No additional roles, responsibilities or authority over educational decisionmaking will be assumed by the Board as a result of this transition.”
Another item of note: Gray has found $5.4 million in his proposal to fully fund the “Pre-K for All” legislation passed by the council last year. The report had strong words for the gap in the mayor’s budget plan: “Disappointed is a mild description of the Council’s response to the failure of OSSE and this Administration to honor its commitment to the expansion and enhancement of pre-kindergarten (pre-k) services to District residents.”