The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Attack against D.C. Schools

Oct 26, 2009

DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty laid off 338 DC public school employees, including 229 classroom teachers. This 6% lay off happened eight weeks into the school year.

Students saw their teacher escorted out of the classroom by DC cops – no goodbyes, no explanations. The teachers were told they could come back Saturday to collect their personal belongings. Even if you don’t like your teacher you are going to sympathize.

At the end of the day at one high school, students gathered outside the school to protest the lay offs. And the DC police, behaving like police, pepper sprayed students, arrested a student after she hit her head on the sidewalk and arrested a parent trying to defend the students’ right to protest.

Students at other schools followed suit. There were protests every day for a week. They carried signs saying things like: “Every Child Left Behind,” “R.I.P. My Education,” “You Have Failed Us” – with a picture of School Chancellor Rhee on the poster,

Chancellor Rhee and Mayor Fenty claim there is a “budget shortfall.” But the fiscal 2010 budget has 15 million dollars more than fiscal 2009. The budget “shortfall” is nothing but an excuse to cut the amount of money spent on teachers.

Rhee hired 900 new teachers over the summer, that is teachers who don’t have experience – and who are paid less. Many of the teachers laid off were tenured. A long-time chemistry teacher, was one of the laid off teachers. This is a teacher who has won awards and always received good reviews. Who is going to teach her chemistry class?

What is really behind this layoff? Not the budget, not bad teachers (even if some were). It is certainly NOT about improving DC schools. And everyone knows it. Cutting experienced teachers while bringing in new teachers without experience will lower the quality of the teaching, not to mention disrupt schools. And it’s led to larger class sizes.

They are cutting at the expense of students – so they can spend more on privately run charter schools. The consequence of these lay offs is that the 45,000 students attending public schools get cheated out of decent education.