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Will D.C. Contract Money Go Away?

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The nearly $65 million in private funding slated to help the District of Columbia pay for a new teacher contract could be in jeopardy if Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee leaves, The Washington Post reports.

In letters, the foundations have made stable leadership, along with the District making test score improvements, conditions for continuing the funding.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Robertson Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and Laura and John Arnold Foundation are providing the funding.

Rhee's boss, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, is up for re-election this year and will face what is expected to be a tough campaign against D.C.'s city council chairman, Vincent Gray.

Gray, who has said he supports keeping mayoral control of schools in place, has been coy when asked if he would retain Rhee as his schools chancellor. While Rhee has said she has no plans of leaving, Gray and others have speculated she would leave the Nation's Capital after she weds Sacramento Mayor (and former NBA star) Kevin Johnson later this year.

Even if Rhee and Fenty are to return, the conditional nature of the funding may cause problems in getting the city's chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, to certify that the contract is fiscally sound. That has to happen before the city council votes on ratifying the contract.

"The government has to be assured that the money it is getting is without condition. We cannot spend money that we are not certain of," he told The Post via a statement. "This is one of the issues that have made this analysis such a lengthy and difficult process."

Members of the Washington Teachers' Union also have to approve the contract. WTU president George Parker and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten have encouraged D.C. teachers to vote for the contract, even as there has been some scuffling after a report that the schools had a $34 million surplus during the time nearly 300 teachers were laid off last fall.

That number has since been the source of some disagreement between Rhee and Gandhi.

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