WASHINGTON, D.C. – The bitter fight over teacher layoffs in D.C. schools is far from over. The teachers’ union is threatening to sue, the city council is calling for an investigation, and those who lost their jobs want an explanation.
D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee admitted Tuesday that some good teachers may have lost their jobs but the school district followed the letter of the law. Theoretically that’s the way it was supposed to happen, but some teachers say that’s not the reality.
“My third period class would be meeting right about now,” Noel Cyrus said, as he adjusted his lawnmower.
He is cutting the grass during the school day instead of teaching his class. The business teacher at Ballou Senior High School is one of 266 teachers laid off Friday.
“I was literally married to Ballou. I spent my money on the kids. I stayed up there it seems 24 hours a day,” Cyrus said.
Last summer, he took classes to get certified as an Entrepreneurial Teacher. But he didn’t just teach. Cyrus coached football and track. He was named coach of the year by the Washington Post not once but several times. All he got was a form letter saying his position was eliminated.
Chancellor Rhee says the reduction in force, or RIF, was not taken lightly.
“We thought very carefully about this,” Rhee said.
DCPS made the cuts, facing a $40 million shortfall. City Councilmembers have been critical of the layoffs, saying the shortfall was replaced by federal stimulus dollars. However, Rhee says the government restricts the use of that money and it can’t be used for just anything.
By law, the layoffs were made using four criteria. School needs was the first factor. That means eliminating classes or positions not necessary to the core operations of the school. Then, teachers or staff were ranked based on three additional factors. Those included: significant contributions and performance, supplemental experience demonstrated on the job and length of service.
“If you are a new teacher, you were more likely to be let go in the process. So what we wanted to do was not make seniority the only factor we looked at,” Rhee told FOX 5.