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WTU Wants Judge To Reopen Case Involving Laid Off Teachers

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Washington Teachers Union President George Parker wants laid off teachers reinstated
Kavitha Cardoza
Washington Teachers Union President George Parker wants laid off teachers reinstated

By Kavitha Cardoza

Attorneys for the Washington Teacher's Union are asking a Superior Court judge to reopen the case it filed after more than 250 teachers were laid off from Public Schools last October. The union says information disclosed this week bolsters their claim that the budget crisis behind the firings was manufactured.

George Parker, president of the WTU, says the union wants to review all the documents and submit new information.

"We're very very troubled and concerned," says Parker, who is referring to Chancellor Michelle Rhee's statement this week that she recently found out there was no budget shortfall, rather a $34 million budget surplus.

A judge had previously ruled in favor of D.C. public schools. Parker says the union wants the teachers reinstated, but not at the cost of the recently negotiated union contract.

"We could implement a hiring freeze on and immediately begin a process to hire the RIF teachers," says Parker.

The back and forth all week between officials has been quite astonishing. Soon after Rhee said there was a surplus, the city's chief financial officer shot off a letter saying, no there wasn't. Then Rhee said she had found almost $30 million elsewhere.

"What people don't understand is that I don't run the finances of D.C.P.S.," says Rhee. "I don't keep the books. I don't write the checks."

Rhee says the layoffs were not manufactured and says the mayor's staff has helped identify the recent funds.

"The bottom line is the mayor believes this is a priority," says Rhee. "I've said recognizing and rewarding teachers is the biggest lever we have to improve school quality. So we're going to make the commitment to make sure this contract moves forward."

A hearing on the case is set for April 23rd.

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