- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson yesterday opposed plans by the D.C. Public Schools system to lay off hundreds of teachers.

Mrs. Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, told D.C. Board of Education President Peggy Cooper Cafritz in a letter yesterday that widespread teacher layoffs would be “a mistake of grave proportion.”

“Any significant number of terminations would lead to disruption of teaching and learning,” Mrs. Patterson wrote.

Last week, D.C. school system administrators said the job cuts were necessary to help cover a $38 million budget shortfall. The troubled school system plans to lay off up to 10 percent of its 5,400 teachers, administrators said last week. In all, the school system will eliminate 771 jobs.

Plans call for administrators to identify by Friday the employees who will lose jobs. Their last day will be Jan. 29, officials said.

Mrs. Patterson said she favors increasing funding to the 67,000-student school system, joining council members Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, and Kevin Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat. Both said they would vote to increase the school budget if it would save teachers’ jobs.

However, the council members also said that they want assurances from the school board and administrators that the additional funds will be used to avoid layoffs.

“I will continue to advocate for that additional funding,” Mrs. Patterson said, “but it would be far easier if the [school] board would be clear as to its intentions with regard to use of additional dollars.”

Many on the council, as well as Mayor Anthony A. Williams, have criticized the D.C. school system for exceeding its budget by $300 million in the past four years despite declining enrollment.

The overspending prompted Mr. Williams earlier this year to propose a takeover of the school system.

Mrs. Cafritz told Mr. Chavous during a D.C. Council education subcommittee hearing last week that school officials are working on a plan to offer veteran employees buyout packages to avoid some of the layoffs. No new details about that plan were released yesterday.

Mrs. Cafritz and other D.C. Board of Education members yesterday heard from dozens of teachers, parents and students, who had attended the board’s meeting to protest the planned job cuts. More protests are planned when the school board meets again tomorrow.


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