DC Council Grills Rhee About Firings

Council members accuse Rhee of undercutting teacher's union

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCWashington.com
    Michelle Rhee

    WASHINGTON -- Members of the D.C. Council are accusing the public schools chancellor of making like the mayor and leaving the council out of the decision-making process.

    The council grilled Michelle Rhee about more than 200 teacher layoffs earlier in the school year at a hearing Thursday.

    "There's no question in my mind that there was an intent to leave the impression that what happened to these people was at the doorstep of the council of the District of Columbia," Council Chairman Vincent Gray said.

    Rhee acknowledged that she fired teachers instead of eliminating school programs the council wanted to cut.

    At Thursday's hearing, the chief financial officer of the school system said the system was over budget even before council-mandated cuts.

    "It's clear from the testimony today that there are some very questionable practices that have been engaged in," Gray said.

    Several council members said Rhee used the budget cuts to undercut the teachers union.

    Rhee insisted she had the authority -- and that it was her duty -- to reorder school spending in order to keep reforms going.

    "I had to make the difficult choice to lay off staff to balance our budget and move forward through 2010 responsibly," she said.

    Several council members also cautioned that relations between the council and Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty are at a breaking point.