- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The results of D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s public schools takeover will begin to show by the 2009-10 school year, when enrollment is expected to increase after at least a decade of decline, schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said yesterday.

“We’re anticipating that there will be another drop in enrollment for this year,” Mrs. Rhee said at a press conference at Moten Elementary School in Southeast. “I think that this will probably be the last year of that though; then we’ll start to see the uptick.”

Mrs. Rhee, flanked by Mr. Fenty and Deputy Mayor of Education Victor Reinoso, made the announcement while requesting $773 million from the city for the school system’s 2008-09 budget, about $23 million less than in the budget this year.

Schools spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said the decrease is the result of the school system transferring functions to the Office of the State Superintendent for Education, formerly the State Education Office.

School officials will have $44 million more than last year to spend on bolstering school staff, curriculum and supplemental programs as a result of closing 23 schools this summer and firing nearly 100 central office employees.

The additional funds will be spent on new teachers, literacy and math coaches, social workers and art, music and physical-education programs. The changes will be implemented first in schools slated to receive students from the schools that will be closed.

Last year’s budget was about $1.1 billion after federal and other funding sources were included. Miss Hobson said she did not know when the official amount of federal funding would be available.

The budget preview comes three weeks after a D.C. Superior Court judged ruled against a group of parents who took Mrs. Rhee to court to argue that they had a right to see the budget before it was submitted to the D.C. Council, as they had in previous years.

Some of the parents were members of a group that has been at odds with Mrs. Rhee since she proposed in November to shut down underenrolled schools to help close a $100 million projected deficit. The Coalition to Save Our Neighborhood Schools said Mrs. Rhee has excluded parents from weighing in on key decisions, particularly about closing schools.

Cherita Whiting, a community activist and plaintiff in the court case, said the announcements yesterday were still insufficient because they “don’t tell parents anything” about how certain schools will benefit from the increased funding.

“That’s not a budget,” she said. “How are parents supposed to know where to send their children?”

City officials have proposed the school closings as a way to counter declining enrollment in the 49,600-student school system.

Historical enrollment figures were not immediately available from the school system, but last year’s enrollment was about 55,000 students.

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