"She is discriminating against the residents of Ward 8."
That's the accusation leveled against D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee by Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry, who gathered a handful of his constituents to express outrage over Rhee's announcement that two southeast Washington elementary schools will remain closed through next year.
The schools in question are Turner Elementary and Moten Elementary, which Rhee shuttered in 2008. Students were placed in other nearby schools, with Rhee promising to rebuild and improve the schools in 2010, according to a press release from Barry's office.
But yesterday ahead of her hearing with the D.C. Council about her highly-criticized school reform efforts, Rhee said budget constraints and the bad economy would make it impossible for the school system to come through on those promises this year. She instead postponed the rebuilding projects for another two years.
"I found last week that the chancellor had been sneaky and had put [the school re-openings] in the 2012 budget," Barry said Tuesday evening in front of Turner Elementary, surrounded by more than a dozen residents. "This community is outraged at that. Another promise made, a promise broken."
Rhee said she made those promises "based on what [the financial situation] looked like at the time," according to the Washington Post. "I didn't expect the capital budget to take a hammering."
Now it's Rhee who's taking more hammering from residents in Ward 8, who say she and other city leaders don't understand their community's needs because they don't live there. Some residents said there's an ugly racial undercurrent in the District's efforts to rebuild and renovate schools.
"This isn't urban renewal, it's negro removal," said community activist Elaine Carter in a scathing indictment against D.C.'s administration. "They want us blacks out of the city."
Carter and other residents who stood beside Barry on Tuesday called for better communication between school officials and community members. Barry promised to withdraw his vote for next year's school budget if it doesn't include the funds to rebuild and reopen Turner and Moten.