From Ward 3’s elected representative on the DC State Board of Education, updates on 2017-2018 school funding and work on addressing overcrowding at Wilson High and its feeder schools.
Education Budget is increased; New funds targeted for “restoring” staff and program cuts
The DC Council voted on May 30 to substantially raise the amount of money that will go to DC’s public schools this coming year. An additional required vote on the budget will be taken on June 16.
The original budget proposal submitted by Mayor Bowser provided a per-student increase (known as the UPSFF-the uniform per student funding formula) of only 1.5%, much less than the cost increases that schools will confront – and much less than the 3% increase recommended by the mayor’s own state education agency. The budget also put much less money into school renovation/modernization than previous budgets.
The result was staff and program cuts across the city, including ten staff cut at Wilson High School (for a total of 30 staff cut in three budget cycles), staff cut at other large high schools (especially Ballou, CHEC, and Eastern) and inadequate progress on needed renovations and modernizations across the city. (See Washington Post and Northwest Current articles.)
The Council budget will send an additional $11.5 million to DC public schools as well as $7.2 million to the city’s charter schools. The Council “expects the additional funds at DCPS to be used for restoring instructional staff and programs at schools” (italics mine) and is requiring the chancellor of DCPS, by September 1, 2017, to submit to the Council a report that outlines how the additional funding to DCPS will be used and a detailed analysis of the changes to the use of “at-risk” funds.
This statement from the Council is critical because in past years, the Council has provided DCPS with additional funds to stave off staff cuts, and DCPS has instead allocated the funds to other projects. Likewise, funding appropriated by the Council to support at-risk students has been used by DCPS to cover general school costs.
Chancellor Antwan Wilson has stated publicly that the funds will go to schools, not the central office. That’s a good start. But, it’s important to understand: If schools are to hold on to staff members who have already been told that they’re cut, the schools must be given their revised budgets quickly. It will be important for the chancellor, the Council, and the mayor – as well as those of us who advocated for the increased funding – to make sure that schools are notified quickly about their revised budgets.
Thanks due to many
The exceedingly low budget proposed for education inspired great parent/citizen activism! The main group that pushed for both increased funding for all public schools (traditional DCPS and charters) and an assurance that DCPS funds would be used to restore program and staff cuts was the Coalition For DC Schools (C4DC), which led a petition and letter-writing effort. In addition, high-profile advocacy efforts calling for increased funding for all DC public schools were led by the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and DC Education Coalition for Change (DECC). It was an amazing outpouring in favor of adequate funding for all of our public schools. Thanks to all!
We also have many to thank on the DC Council. Chairman of the Education Committee David Grosso and committee members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Robert White, and Trayon White issued a committee report in favor of providing at least a 3% increase in the per student (UPSFF) funding. To make the increase possible, Council members Mary Cheh (Ward 3) and Vincent Gray (Ward 7), who respectively chair the committees on the Transportation and Environment; and Health, were able to identify funds from agency budgets overseen by their committees and make them available to the education committee.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson was then able to use the report and funds as the foundation for cobbling together the 3% increase as well as funds for other educational programs, including transportation costs for adult students, made possible by a transfer from Elissa Silverman’s Labor and Workforce Development committee.
Thanks to all of you who signed petitions and wrote your Council members, to all the city’s advocates who really revved up for this campaign, and to the DC Council who made the increase a reality – and, who are insisting that the DCPS funds are used to restore instructional staff and programs.
Community Working Group launched by DCPS to address overcrowding issues
Many thanks to Chancellor Antwan Wilson, who in one of his earliest actions as our new chancellor established a Community Working Group to discuss and make recommendations to address the overcrowding/space needs afflicting Wilson High School and the elementary/middle schools that feed it (largely, but not just located in Ward 3). Virtually every school that feeds into Wilson High School, as well as Wilson itself, is badly overcrowded, and projections indicate that enrollments will continue to go up, up, up.
The first meeting of the group (and a prior discussion sponsored by the Ward 3/Wilson Feeder Education network) focused mainly on ways to increase available space, both to relieve overcrowding and restore the ability of schools to offer seats to students who live out-of-bounds, as promised by the Report on Boundaries.
Space could potentially be identified for, say, an early childhood center, which could relieve crowding at area elementaries. Participants identified possible new space at such sites as the Fannie Mae complex, which is being redeveloped, the Lower School that is being vacated by Georgetown Day School, and the old Hardy school. Let me know if you have other ideas!
Provide DCPS and the Working Group with your input here.
You can follow the committee’s work via the DCPS blog at dcpsplanning.wordpress.com.
The Working Group includes the principal and a parent representative from each school, plus Brian Doyle (chair of the Ward 3/Wilson Feeder school Education Network); a representative from Council member Mary Cheh’s office; and me, as the Ward 3 representative to the State Board of Education. The plan calls for the group to meet monthly over the next 4 to 5 months to develop recommendations that will then be presented to the broader community for feedback.
Changes in nursing coverage next year
The Department of Health plans to provide many schools, including Murch and Oyster-Adams, with less than full-time nursing coverage next year. This has been the subject of much discussion and angst all year. The DOH and the Department of Behavioral Health will hold a community meeting about the new plan on Wednesday, June 14, from 6 to 7 p.m. at Deal Middle School.
For more info, you can also reach out to Melody Molinoff (firstname.lastname@example.org), co-chair of the W3/Wilson Feeder Schools Education Network.