Council chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) has largely backed away from his threat to withhold $27 million from the city school system due to a dispute over enrollment figures.
After a meeting with Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Gray agreed to restore most of the money but still plans to ask the Council to withhold $3.3 million, pending certification by the system its enrollment in public schools will increase by 373 students in the 2009-2010 academic year.
When the Council preliminarily approved the 2010 budget last month, it voted to withhold $27.5 million from the school system because some council members did not believe enrollment projections.
Gray noted that total enrollment, including in the charter schools, dropped from 75,013 during the 1998-1999 school year to 70,044 in the current academic year. The school system is projecting 73,121 charter and public school students next year.
After the Council vote to withold $27 million, Rhee went on the offensive in an unusually public manner. She, along with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), warned the Council's action could result in teacher layoffs.
On Friday, Gray met with Rhee to try to hammer out a compromise. Rhee is now adopting a lighter approach.
"Your ultimate question - what is the source of the projected 3,076 new students next year in DCPS and charter schools? - remains unanswered," Rhee wrote to Gray. But she added "an independent team of researchers" devised the enrollment projections.
"I understand your skepticism that such a large citywide target can be met," Rhee wrote. "Based upon the assumptions we outlined, however, we believe that we have sound evidence and data to suggest that DCPS's enrollment...will increase slightly over last year's."
Instead of withholding $27 million, Gray has included language in the budget, which will be voted on today, calling for the creation of a working group that will "develop a uniform method by which enrollment should be completed."
Rhee suggested a similar approach in her letter to Gray.