Several Murch Elementary parents came to ANC 3F’s Tuesday meeting, seeking support in their push for an additional $230,324 in the school’s fiscal 2024 budget.
ANC 3F06 Commissioner Courtney Carlson introduced a resolution of support, saying that Murch enrollment increased by an “unprecedented” 48 students – the equivalent of two classes – after the 2022-23 school year began. Parent leaders said that the money allotted to Murch in the Mayor Bowser’s fiscal 2024 budget request would not pay for the current school year’s enrollment increase, let alone any bump in enrollment in the next school year.
The money would be used to hire two more teachers in first and second grades. The new enrollment is across grade levels, but the Murch LSAT determined that the younger learners would have the most to gain from more teachers and reduced class sizes. The Murch kindergartners who are next year’s first-graders are in classes with 25 kids on average. The average first grade class currently has 28 kids.
Allison Fitzsimmons, a Murch parent, said the additional staff would also help the school and its students with myriad challenges.
“We’ve had a lot of social issues, including aggression, and some serious learning gaps that we think may be covid related,” Fitzsimmons says. Murch also has several English language learners who need more support.
Murch LSAT co-chair Ada Leach told commissioners that the committee had looked at bringing on more teachers’ aides, but teachers advised them that fulltime staff would make more of a difference in student outcomes.
Elias Benda, Council member Matt Frumin’s legislative assistant, said Frumin supports the Murch parents’ call for more funding.
“I think Murch is a very good example of how both the current budget formula and the formula proposed by the Council doesn’t necessarily address the true needs of schools,” Benda said.
“We’re seeing this across the [city] at the elementary schools where there’s there’s a need that wasn’t funded through the petition process,” said Ward 3 State Board of Education member Eric Goulet. He commended the Murch parents and Frumin for their advocacy.
ANC 3F approved the resolution on a 6-0-0 vote. The timing is important because of where we are in the budget process. On Thursday, April 27th, the Council’s Committee of the Whole, headed by Council chair Phil Mendelson, is scheduled to mark up the committee’s budget report, which includes education.
OSSE bus failures: Prior to the vote on the Murch funding resolution, ANC 3F unanimously passed a resolution (note that the link is to a draft) calling on the mayor and the Council to “immediately” address failures of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) busing system for students with special needs.
“For the past eight weeks, late and no-show buses have caused students with special needs, including those residing in our ANC, to miss class time and have left families frustrated, scrambling and not knowing what to expect one day to the next,” the resolution said. “Parents and caregivers are having to pay out of pocket to get their children to school and have to wait ‘at least’ 30 days minimum for reimbursement with no ‘maximum’ amount of time defined… Teachers and staff are being forced to work overtime to care for these students and make sure they are picked up.”
“Immediate action,” according to the resolution, could include gas and rideshare gift cards for families struggling to find affordable last-minute transportation alternatives, a plan to address the student learning impacts from the lost class time, and an investigation of OSSE leadership.
Congratulations, grads: UDC’s community college is enrolling day care and preschool teachers who are now required, under DC law, to have an associate’s degree at minimum. Its offerings include a new bilingual associate’s program for bilingual childcare workers, the only one of its kind in this area. The program’s first class celebrated their graduation on March 25th.
“Before it could offer a bilingual program,” reports The Washington Post, “UDC had to translate syllabi from its English-language associates program and find textbooks in Spanish…. Around 300 students are currently enrolled in the bilingual program and around 40 in the English-only program.”
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