Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Cat's Out of the Bag on Budget Cuts

Over the weekend City Councilmember David Catania revealed privately to "Teachers and Parents for..." member Kerry Sylvia that the purpose of the contrived budget cuts was to get principals to ID their least competent teachers for removal. Today the Washington Post announced the same thing in their lead editorial. So what's the problem with this?

The problem is that the Chancellor has had more than two years to come up with a way to credibly evaluate teachers based on an objective assessment of their competence, according to a commonly held standard of what good teaching looks like. She has failed to do this. She didn't even start trying to come up with such a system until this year. And the budget cut process even bypasses the system she has just recently created. And quite frankly the teachers union has also failed to step up to the plate to offer an alternative way to effectively evaluate teachers.

Telling principals to come up with an arbitrary list of positions to cut to satify a budget cut quota randomly assigned to each school is at best a crude, blunt instrument. Budget watcher Mary Levy questions whether there is a need for cuts at all. Members of the Council also question the need for cuts. It will create ill will, unnecessary instability in every school as students are re-assigned one month into the year, and in many cases the wrong decisions will be made. It seems to us that it will also open DCPS to lawsuits on the part of people who lose thier jobs without adequate rationale or due process. The problem of teachers teaching who should have been subject to a better evaluation system is real, but this way of addressing it avoids the hard work that the Rhee administration was hired to do two and a quarter years ago.


The Washington Teacher said...

I hope you all will support the rank & file teacher rally to protest unfair RIF's and Rhee's IMPACT evaluation on this Thursday, Sepember 24 @ 4:30pm. We invite teachers, related school personnel, students, displaced government workers, media, residents and concerned others to meet at 825 North Capitol St NE at the DCPS Central Office.


Michael Fiorillo said...

"Unnecessary instability" is spoken of as something that Michelle Rhee might want to avoid. On the contrary: instability, fear and fragmentation of schools and their communities is both a tactic and a goal.

Please don't make the mistake of thinking that these folks can be dealt with by appeals to conscience and good faith. It's way beyond that now: they are confident they can move in for the kill over the next four years, using the fiscal crises of state and municipal governments to close schools, disperse their staffs to the four winds, and open publicly-funded but privately-controlled charter schools in their places.

Unless various forces, combined with the inherent self-destructiveness of the privatizer's viciousness, greed and power-hunger, combine to slow or stop this assault on public education and the communities that really comprise it, then within ten years tenure and seniority will be gone and most of what were once public schools will have been given over to privateers like Rhee and the private equity and venture capital that promotes her and her ilk.

And Brava to The Washington Teacher for her courage and hard work.

Kerry Sylvia said...

While sharing my concerns with Councilmember Catania on Saturday about how disruptive the budget cuts will be to DCPS-—17 staff positions alone at my school--he attempted to downplay it explaining that Chancellor Rhee's plan is to RIF only the 200 excessed teachers who have been bounced around from school to school in previous years. He seemed to think it was okay to remove teachers in this way. He was under the false impression that the system would cut only these excessed teachers and it would not be disruptive because these teachers were not placed in classrooms.

While I will not argue with the need to remove ineffective teachers and staff from schools, I disagree with the methods. The underhanded way of hiring 900 teachers and then firing hundreds a few months later makes people distrustful—both new and veteran teachers. A new teacher in my building is worried that she will be cut and said that she feels like a “pawn”. This is not the way to attract and retain teachers.

As a taxpayer and teacher in an underfunded school, I can think of many other things we should be spending our money on rather than the future lawsuits that will inevietably come out of this maneuver to ignore due process.

In the end, despite efforts to mimimize student disruption, the children will suffer as they are moved around and merged into larger classes. If the proper planning and procedures had been followed, the removal of ineffective teachers and the “rightsizing” of schools would have been completed before the school year started.

To continue to implement changes and “reforms” at the last minute will just continue the instability that has plagued DCPS and is at the root of its dysfunction.

meaningful change said...

These are all excellent points being made. One thing that strikes me is the amount of time principals are spending in meetings and doing the paperwork for the cuts. It is absolutely ridiculous and on this Friday the auditors for enrollment are starting to go into the schools. That is a whole lot more paperwork that needs to be compiled.

The dysfunction that arises out of the constant chaos being thrown at the schools is just wearing everyone down.

Reading the rave reviews by the Washington Post's editorial board, some council members and others makes this whole thing that much more intolerable. Don't they get it? Oh, that's right they are not in the schools experiencing what we are every day.