Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Some Mistakes Aren't Just Incompetent....

They're "Detroit under Coleman Young" incompetent. What's the plausible explanation for this?
Rhee explained that part of the teacher raises contemplated in the new contract would come from a $34 million surplus in the schools budget. Of course, various members of the council were quick to inquire how the school system could be running a surplus now, when just last fall Rhee justified the dismissal of 266 teachers due to a $43 million deficit. According to Rhee, the surplus was uncovered because a previous budget estimate mistakenly used $81,000 as the average teacher salary, about $15,000 more than it actually is.
Well, it's not like they could have looked at actual payroll figures, is it? Two possible explanations: They deliberately inflated teacher salaries to justify the layoffs, despite the inevitability of being caught and subjecting the city to numerous lawsuits (covered, I would venture, by a different budget); or they are hopelessly, woefully incompetent. I am trying to give Rhee the benefit of the doubt at this point, but I have a great deal of difficulty seeing how this could occur without her knowledge - and it appears she has known of the "error" for quite some time.
The best Rhee, Parker and Gandhi will be able to do is blame the miscalculation on Noah Wepman, the DCPS CFO who resigned late last year after having failed to report on an apparent budget deficit in the schools budget, the one that forced Rhee to lay off the 266 teachers to begin with.
So he was fired for not detecting what now appears to be largely or entirely a fake budget shorftall, most likely because prior to detecting the "deficit" he based the figure for teacher salaries on actual teacher salaries? Trying to (again?) scapegoat him doesn't sound very promising, although I would be very interested to learn the back story to how his "error" occurred.

I guess we're supposed to cut Rhee some slack because she is thinking of "the good of the children", when the Young Administration's incompetence - defaulting on lawsuits, allowing police executives to loot unaudited slush funds, etc. - often seemed to be more about creating cover for theft, graft and embezzlement. But it looks like this "little deception" is going to cause D.C. a great deal of difficulty and potentially derail the new teacher compensation and accountability deal.

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