November 25th, 2009

DC Judge Rules in Favor of Michelle Rhee


Good news for Michelle Rhee this Thanksgiving: the DC Superior Court ruled yesterday that layoffs she made in October were legal. ‚ÄúThis has been a difficult time for the entire school system,” Rhee stated through a press release Tuesday evening. “We all look forward to maintaining our focus on serving students and renewing a collective effort to improve the quality of education we offer every child across the District.”

The decision is a blow to the Washington Teachers’ Union, which had argued that Rhee had manufactured a budget shortfall in order to target teachers she wanted out of the system.

George Parker explains his version of events at 3:20, below.

Judge Judith Bartnoff acknowledged that some teachers may have been improperly removed but soundly rejected Parker’s larger claim, writing:

The Court recognizes that questions could be raised about particular RIF decisions, in terms of the position that was eliminated, the individual whose employment was terminated, or both… Nevertheless, some questionable RIF decisions do not establish that the RIF was a pretext for a mass discharge, given the undisputed evidence that the DCPS budget was sufficient to support the existing staff and the new teachers being hired for the current school year, until the Council reduced the budget by $21 million only two weeks before the new teachers were scheduled to report.

Parker and the teachers’ union may appeal Bartnoff’s decision. But for now, it seems that the dispute will return to its original venue, out of the courtroom, and back to the bargaining table.

Also important to note - at a city council hearing in October, council members questioned whether Rhee’s decision to lay off teachers was legal, but for a different reason. When the council cut Rhee’s budget over the summer, it ordered her to slash funds for summer school. Instead, Rhee made layoffs without seeking the council’s approval. That charge continues to be investigated by the council.

Full coverage of Michelle Rhee and DC Schools:
Michelle Rhee in Washington DC: The Series
Two years of talks with Michelle Rhee and George Parker

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