The Case of DC: The Battle to Revamp Schools

Over at the NewsHour, a look at the contest over reforming DC schools:

John Merrow reports on the controversial practices that D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee is using to shake up the city’s school system, including closing 23 schools by 2010 in a bid to tackle a $100 million budget deficit — a move that has raised a storm of protest…

JOHN MERROW: Rhee wasted no time getting started. Weeks before the first day of school, she discovered thousands of textbooks and supplies not in classrooms where they belonged, but gathering dust in a warehouse.

She got them delivered to schools in time for opening day and then went after the cause of the problem: the district’s central office, long criticized for its inefficiency.

Rhee asked the city council to pass a law giving her the power to fire central office employees at will.

MICHELLE RHEE: It is a matter of trust.

HARRY THOMAS, JR., D.C. City Council Member: It is a matter of trust.

JOHN MERROW: Rhee met with city council members, like Harry Thomas, Jr., lobbying for votes.

MICHELLE RHEE: For a leader of an organization not to have the power to remove ineffective employees means that you are severely handcuffing that person and putting up barriers to their effectiveness.

NATHAN SAUNDERS, General Vice President, Washington Teachers Union: This legislation is devoid of an educational impact plan for children at the classroom level.