Does D.C. School System Really Have A Surplus?
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
NPR's Claudio Sanchez explains what happened.
CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: George Parker, the president of the Teachers Union, called for a news conference to say he was stunned and confused.
MONTAGNE: I think everyone is confused in terms of whether the money is there or the money is not there. That causes some doubt in terms of the credibility of the chancellor. And I think that's very, very disturbing.
SANCHEZ: After repeated requests, Rhee declined to speak to NPR. But in a written statement she insisted that she had been reassured there was a surplus in the school budget. Union leaders say their pending contract with Rhee is on hold and that they cannot trust what she says anymore.
MONTAGNE: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, helped negotiate the D.C. teachers' contract with Rhee.
MONTAGNE: You can't run a school system that way, and ultimately everybody has to be accountable in terms of making sure that this system works.
SANCHEZ: To that end, the Teachers Union wants resolution on three fronts. One, it wants a D.C. Superior Court judge to reopen a lawsuit demanding that Rhee reinstate the 266 teachers she laid off in light of Rhee's admission that they were fired based on inaccurate budget information. Secondly, the union also wants the city's chief financial officer to clarify, once and for all, if the school district is running a deficit or a surplus. And third, union leaders want teachers to ratify the contract.
MONTAGNE: But we can't vote to ratify that contract until we are certain that the District of Columbia public school budget can fully fund it.
SANCHEZ: Veteran teachers who've been trying to follow all this don't know if they should be surprised, angry, sad.
MONTAGNE: Well, it's embarrassing.
SANCHEZ: Frazier O'Leary has been a high school social studies teacher in D.C. for 40 years.
MONTAGNE: We want to have a first class school system. We want to be recognized as - I'm sure what the chancellor wants us to be and what the union wants us to be. And reform is needed, but reform without trust doesn't work.
SANCHEZ: Claudio Sanchez, NPR News.
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