Here's a surefire way to tie up some phone lines: Declare to the world you have $100,000 to give away to 75 unidentified individuals out of a pool of about 1,000 potential candidates. How many of those people do you think will try to claim the prize?
Such is the case the past two days at the offices of the Washington Teachers' Union, following an arbitrator's ruling earlier this week that 75 teachers fired by former D.C. Public Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee in 2008 must be reinstated with back-pay. Trouble is, explains WTU president Nathan Saunders, that approximately 1,000 educators lost their jobs during Rhee's four years at DCPS, and it isn't tough to guess how many of them could use $100,000.
"Everybody thinks it's them," says Saunders. "But it's only a small subset of the 1,000." The union has had to hastily put together a formal vetting process, Saunders says, that includes creating a special email address just for teachers trying to get information about this decision. Should a fired teacher contact the union and claim to be one of the lucky 75, the union will then ask them to provide evidence of their employment.
As Saunders puts it, "Just because your name is John Smith, doesn't mean you're the same John Smith who was fired."
Rhee spoke out on the ruling at an education reform event in Georgia Thursday, going so far as to declare that the "school district is going to appeal the decision." But as Bill Turque noted earlier today, so far, the school system isn't confirming that assertion.
In the meantime, D.C. Public Schools has 60 days to offer all 75 teachers their jobs back, according to the terms of the arbitrator's decision. Saunders says the union is attempting to cooperate with the school district in weeding out all potential imposters.
"In this economy when folks have a chance to make $100,000," says Saunders, "I'm not surprised" at the volume of calls.