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Rhee Says Teachers Fired Because Of Budget Mistake

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By Patrick Madden

There is growing controversy surrounding the tentative new D.C. teachers contract. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee tells city lawmakers the money for new raises will come out of a surplus that didn't exist last year. It turns out, she says, the spending pressures that forced her to fire 266 teachers last October, were a mistake.

Rhee told the council and Washington Teachers Union President George Parker this morning that the budget pressures that forced her to fire the teachers were the result of an accounting error by the school's chief financial officer at the time.

Reached after the meeting in the hallway, Rhee says hindsight is always "20-20."

"At the time, the budget pressure did exist, all we can go off of was the information that we had at the time, which was that the budget pressure existed," says Rhee.

Asked by a council member if the school system would look at rehiring the laid-off teachers, Rhee answers "No" and she says the new information will not affect the tentative labor agreement.

WTU President George Parker told council members this was the first time he heard the news and left without talking to reporters.

Today's disclosure raises a number of questions. How will the teachers union respond? It still has to vote on the contract agreement. And what steps will the council take? It has to approve the deal and finalize the budget.

Many on the council were shocked by today's revelation. As today's meeting wraps up, Council Chair Vincent Gray tells the room that "some people's pay raises were funded with people's jobs."

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