Anger is running high as D.C. public-school teachers and their supporters continue to protest layoffs of school personnel imposed by D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee last month.

Rhee’s decision, which was announced in mid-September, cited a $43.9 million budget shortfall as the reason for firing 266 educators and 122 support staff from DCPS.

Three weeks into the school year, Rhee issued reduction-in-force notes to mostly long-tenured teachers and school staff, leaving some classes without teachers and forcing other classes to be consolidated.

Protesters have accused Rhee of precipitating the layoffs by hiring over 900 educators in the spring and summer, as opposed to the 250 to 350 that are typically added during the year. Rhee has called these allegations [“absolutely, categorically false,” according to The Washington Post](http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/20/AR2009102003574.html). Many see the layoffs as a move to break the teachers’ unions in Washington.

With the backing of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Rhee’s actions are the latest in a two-year effort to address D.C.’s chronically underperforming schools in the face of political opposition from the teachers’ unions.

“We’re in Washington, D.C., in the nation’s capital, and yet the children of this city receive an education that every single citizen in this country should be embarrassed by,” Rhee said [in a Dec. 8th interview with Time](http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,3349235001_0,00.html).

Even by inner-city school standards, D.C.’s public schools have been some of the lowest performing in the country, with students lagging nearly two years behind the national average. Over the years, the DCPS bureaucracy has had a reputation for being notoriously rigid and resistant to reform, [according to Newsweek](http://www.newsweek.com/id/154901).

In response to the September layoffs, the Washington Teachers’ Union has taken the matter to court, alleging that the dismissals were based on teachers’ ages and their willingness to speak against the DCPS administration. D.C. principals who were fired early in the year have also sought redress, suing Rhee for determining who to lay off based on age, race and similar characteristics, according to The Washington Post.

Last week, protesters sounded off in an 18-hour D.C. Council hearing on the layoffs, some decrying the move and others supporting it. Yesterday, Rhee was strongly criticized in another council hearing when she provided her first detailed account of the budget cuts and teacher layoffs, according to the Post.

The school personnel are subject to removal from the payroll on Nov. 2.”

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