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D.C. CFO certifies teachers contract

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2010

D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi announced Monday that he has certified a tentative four-year contract for teachers that includes salary and merit raises. Funding for charter schools remains in dispute.

The Washington Teachers Union deal, announced April 1 after nearly 2½ years of on-and-off negotiations, had been in contention in recent weeks because D.C. Public Schools did not have the money to fund it. Mr. Gandhi, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee said Monday the $38.8 million needed this fiscal year to finance the raises in the agreement has been identified and that they now will work with the union and the D.C. Council to get the contract approved.

Miss Rhee proposed more than a dozen cuts to the schools budget in order to pull off the certification. Those cuts include deferring $7 million in spending on supplies and equipment, deferring $2.1 million on a middle-school math-intervention program and trimming $3.6 million worth of purchase orders.

"With this contract, D.C. teachers will be treated as true professionals — with high standards, strong, guaranteed support to help them succeed in the classroom, and compensation at the high levels they deserve," Miss Rhee said. "We believe it is incredibly important to bring every available resource to bear for supporting teachers and improving our school system. The funders share our vision for reform, and we deeply appreciate their generosity and willingness to work with the District."

When asked about parity funding for charter schools, which have threatened to sue if they dont get matching per-pupil dollars for their students, Miss Rhee said it isnt "an issue" because "most people dont hold" that position.

When asked whom she meant by "most people," Miss Rhee said council members, the mayor and Mr. Gandhi.

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, the mayors chief opponent in the September Democratic primary, said parity for charters remains an issue.

"What about charter schools?" asked Mr. Gray, who met with a few reporters following the announcement. "If thats the case, then theres going to have to be some answers."

It now falls to the council to begin incorporating the cuts and other changes into the mayors revised spending plan for 2010 and his fiscal 2011 proposal. The council is scheduled to begin its mark ups Tuesday.