The president of the Washington Teachers Union and the City Council have joined forces calling on Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to rehire the 266 teachers she abruptly fired last fall after claiming there was a deficit in her 2009 budget.
The chancellor, who claims to have discovered otherwise in February, actually had a $34 million surplus, which she attributed to faulty math calculations on the part of the office of her former chief financial officer, Noah Wepman.
Councilman Harry Thomas said in a statement issued immediately after the revelation on Tuesday that calculations used to justify Rhee’s reduction in force were based on an average teacher salary of $81,000 instead of the correct average of $67,000.
“The WTU challenged the existence of a budget crisis at the time Chancellor Michelle Rhee ordered the reduction in force,” Parker said. “That challenge was the basis for the union’s filing of a request for a preliminary injunction to halt the terminations,” he continued. “In her opinion denying that request, the judge relied upon what we now know to be materially incorrect information provided to her by a representative of the D.C. public schools system.”
Parker added that the union is requesting that the City Council take action to ensure better transparency when it comes to details surrounding the budget process. He said, “While nothing can give back to the teachers , students and community what was lost as a result of either malevolence or mismanagement” of Rhee’s budget, that steps need to be put in place to ensure the situation does not recur.
“In particular, we would like to see more rigorous guidelines for determining what does and does not constitute a crisis that allows for unregulated actions like October’s RIF.”
Rhee now faces reinstatement of the laid off staff or more court action that would challenge the legality of the firings. However, she has said she doesn’t see rehiring as an option.