To the People

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

DC Public School Reform: The Good and the Bad

The DC public school system spends $18K per student annually yet ranks dead last nationally in terms of student achievement. Even worse, its employees are a den of thieves who are so craven that they routinely steal funds raised for student activity clubs. The most craven theft was from a chess club for troubled students that had miraculously catapulted them into a national competition. Sayonara chess club, as
Business manager Sandy Jones ripped off most of the $73,000 that had been donated on behalf of the chess team, according to the Post investigation and federal authorities.

Jones is accused of using the school's ATM card more than 100 times to steal from the chess fund.
Enter energetic Mayor Adrian Fenty and new schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. They are tackling the right issues but as a taxpayer my disappointment is that every problem they solve costs more money, even as the schools lose students and therefore, in any rational world, should cost less.

The Good: Rhee wants to fire a third of the central office employees because they are worse than useless. One woman she wants to fire has cost the District $500K per year educating one student because the employee never filed the proper paperwork.

The Bad: The DC Council opposes Rhee's initiative and views the DCPS as the employer of last resort. Chairman Gray wondered, "what will happen to these people." And the firing will cost $6 million in severance payments.

The Good: Rhee has re-evaluated the insane $1.2 billion allocated to remodeling half-empty schools, many of which need to be shut, that the Council had approved. The remodeling plan was to remodel all of the schools, which overall are at about 50% capacity, and then at a later date close schools. Rhee wants to close 24 schools first, then renovate the existing ones.

The Bad: Somehow this smart move will cost DC taxpayers another $31.6 million over the current budget.

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