Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) will be engaged in another round of high-stakes negotiations with Chancellor Michelle Rhee today over the Council's threat to withhold $27.5 million from the city school system because of a dispute over projected enrollment figures next 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 Rhee's projections that the system would grow by about 3,000 students next year.
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 students next year.
"We are 3,000 students going to come from?" Gray asked at the time.
Minutes after the Council vote, Rhee fired back with a letter warning she will have to make major budget cuts, including potentially laying off hundreds of teachers, unless the Council reverses itself.
On Friday, Gray met with Rhee and several other city and school officials to try to hammer out a compromise. Gray said he's hopeful a solution can be reached later today. The Council is scheduled to take a final vote on the budget tomorrow.
Gray hinted he's willing to restore the funding, but only if the school system agrees to change how it calculates enrollment figures. Absent such concessions, Gray said, taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill for students that may never materialize.
"I think people recognize this is a flawed approach and it's got to change," Gray said. "We are working towards a solution that recognizes this system has to change."