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Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee just took the mike at today’s D.C. Council school-system oversight hearing. Council Chairman Vincent Gray‘s preamble, of course, took Rhee & Co. to task for the school-closings plan but started a line of questioning on the DCPS budget.
What came out early: The schools are facing an approximately $100 million shortfall on their nearly $1 billion budget just two months into the fiscal year. About $81 million of that would be covered by a supplemental appropriation asked for earlier in the fall (assuming the council grants it). The rest of the $20 million, however, is going to be harder to find. Between $5 million and $8 million, Rhee said, will likely come from taking currently vacant job positions off the books. For the rest, she said, her people are “looking at sort of supplies, furniture, that sort of thing.”
At-Large Councilmember David A. Catania picked up on Gray’s line of questioning and noted that this is nothing new for DCPS budgeting: “Almost every year, we seem there is a 10 percent ‘ask’ after the budget is passed,” he said. And, like only Catania can, he found a way to get a dig in at the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and its beleaguered chief, Natwar M. Gandhi. He noted that a CFO worth his salt would point out as soon as possible that the school system was outspending its budget. Not happening in this case, Catania alleges.
Now Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry‘s putting Rhee through the paces: “She is doing some of the same things that got us in trouble before.”
I guess we can call the Rhee honeymoon officially over. Five months—-not bad!
UPDATE, 2:10: Weak defense from Rhee on the botched school-closings announcement: “If I could control what the Washington Post writes, than we wouldn’t be in this position.”
Barry lays into her (rightly), pointing out the leak must have come from someone in her office. The Mayor-for-Life seems especially lucid today.
Gray’s point on finding the closings plan in the Post: “It’s simply become a symbol of the lack of communication with [council] members.”