School Budget Session Held After Confusing Week

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray convened a special committee of the whole Saturday at the Wilson Building to hear witnesses speak about the 2011 education budget.

Saturday morning's hearing was for parents and guardians who can't attend weekday hearings. A similar hearing was held a week ago for students, but this weekend's hearing follows a week of confusion about how much money the school district has.

The Washington Teachers’ Union said in court on Friday that a sudden surplus in the school district budget meant 266 teachers fired last fall should be immediately rehired. Chancellor Michelle Rhee touched off the week of confusion when she said a $34 million surplus discovered in February could help fund the new contract salaries. D.C. Chief Financial Officer Nat Gandhi wrote a letter to the chancellor that said there is no surplus when the entire school budget is considered.

It’s still unclear where money will come from to fund the contract raises.

Gandhi must certify that there is money in the budget for the new teacher contract that’s been praised by both sides. Then the union will vote on it and then the council will vote on it.

As of Friday, the various sides were far from clear as to what’s next until Gandhi issues his fiscal opinion.

It could force a renegotiation of the contract and cause more confusion.

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