19 February 2008

The Shell Game.

Michelle Rhee has been criticized for doing things behind closed doors, but when the plans get leaked, the administrators trip over themselves in an effort to belittle the plans themselves, as if these were just brainstorming sessions that will have little bearing on the direction of education in the District of Columbia over the next two years before Rhee hands in her resignation.

If I were as clueless as she appears to be, I'd be trying to hide everything, too.

Rhee's latest trick is a variation on the old shell game, except instead of a ball under a shell, we've got the taxpayers' money being moved around to different lines, as the Examiner reports (as an aside, the generally right-wing Examiner does a great job covering DC education gaffes). Rhee proposes cutting the DCPS payroll from $505 million to $168 million. That's a significant chunk of change. I mean, she's proposing dropping $337 million dollars out of payroll. That's two-thirds of the payroll! Amazing.

Oh, wait. Actually, it's not so amazing, because she's also proposing increasing contracts from $170 million to $512 million. So she's adding $342 million to the contract budget. That's a net savings of...oh no...it's not a net savings...it's a net loss of $5 million for DC taxpayers.

But it's a net gain of $342 million for private contractors! Which incidentally is the pool Rhee came out of...and where she has many friends still.

Acting D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles argues that these plans are really nothing more than scrap paper, even though DC government only released them under threat of court order:
“It’s only a base budget. There’s a meeting every week with these guys in green eye shades and you talk about how much more you need,” Nickles said. “I’m not quite sure that the plaintiff parties understand that.”

Actually, Mr. Nickles should understand that the plaintiffs are quite aware of the budget process, since many of them have been intimately involved as watchdogs over the corruption of District government for decades. Relative amateurs like Fenty, Rhee, and Nickles -- with their ham-handed and clumsy efforts at subterfuge -- have consistently been outwitted by these trained noses. The budget may be unfinished, but it's not hard to see that Rhee has fairly drastic plans to transfer loads of money from the District's control to private contractors.

So here we go, with the District, as always, playing gameboard for right-wing and neo-liberal dreams of private contractor utopias, where we can privatize all services because someone in economics 101 talked about competition and free markets.

Unfortunately, those of us in the real world understand that world doesn't exist.


Anonymous said...

yeah, cuz, when I think "right-wing neo-liberal," I think Michelle Rhee.

cuff said...

anon, if you don't, you should. Although you conflate right-wing and neo-liberal as if they're the same thing, and what I actually said was that the District was the playground for these forces -- vouchers, charter schools, privatization of public schools, etc. These problems existed before Rhee and will exist after her.

m.a. said...

Grad school reject was right, Cuff. You should run the public schools and straighten them all out.