C4DC sent this letter to the Chairman on the FY2020 Budget. Scroll down to also see a follow up piece from Eboni Rose Thompson on the issues in Ward 7 which illustrate the need. For further information please see the full Invest and Grow document.
Dear Chairman Mendelson:
Since our meeting with you a few weeks back, we have met with a number of your colleagues and watched the Budget Working Session with interest. Nearly every member of the council has expressed during this process that they understand that the pain in this budget lies only with certain schools and so, in a limited budget, we should be focused on solving that problem.
Through our conversations with individual members, we believe a clear majority favor the approach of directing the limited resources in a targeted way to those schools, as we have proposed: whatever additional dollars can be found to add for education in the budget you release next week should be directed to address the clear need in DCPS neighborhood schools hardest hit by the Mayor's proposed budget, many (but not all) of which are East of the River.
At the Working Session, there was talk about long-term fixes and we look forward to being a part of that discussion. But also, Council members Robert White, Charles Allen, Anita Bonds and Elissa Silverman all raised questions about whether and how we might be able to help those hardest hit schools in the coming fiscal year. We were heartened also to hear your comments about hoping to make those schools whole in your process.
In an environment of limited resources, however, merely increasing the foundation amount or the at-risk weight will dilute the necessary response to the specific challenges this year by sending nearly half the dollars to the charter sector and to DCPS schools with less acute needs.
It is simply not the case that that is your only option. No one is better at using the tools within the Council tool box than you are. You can find a way to target dollars and, based on your comments at the Working Session, it sounds like you may already have some ideas on how to do this.
One option we have been promoting is to address a structural error in the way we estimate enrollment for DCPS that results in systematic under-funding of DCPS (see attached paper with our full proposal and background). Indeed, as we embark on a long-term project to revive our neighborhood schools – particularly in our communities of greatest need – and get out of the rut that Council member Bonds referred to as “asinine,” we must find ways to appropriately fund DCPS to preserve and strengthen our critical, matter-of-right education infrastructure.
For the upcoming fiscal year as well as all budgets going forward, we believe the Council should fund DCPS based on the metric OSSE uses in its School Report Cards: the total number of students served (or for budget purposes expected to be served) by DCPS during the course of the year. The statute calls for the Council to base DCPS funding on the total number of resident students expected to be served during the fiscal year and the OSSE metric gets at that number.
Given the high number of mid-year entrants in DCPS matter-of-right schools, particularly in low income neighborhoods, the total number of students served greatly exceeds the number on which the DCPS budget is based -- an estimate of the high water mark. In SY17-18, the budget was based on 50,243 and the total number of students served by DCPS during that school year according to OSSE was 52,164. For SY19-20, the Mayor's budget is based on 51,113 (there has been some growth and schools added since SY17-18) but the number expected to be served, the basis the Council can and should rely on, will be significantly higher – somewhere between 1000 and 2000 higher.
In the process of these discussions there has been some confusion about whether charter schools retain the dollars associated with students who leave mid-year. The Education Committee report addressed the issue and confirmed what we have said: they do (draft Education Committee Report at 83). Charter schools lose 1600 students each school year during the course of the year and retain the approximately $32 million associated with those students who they served for only part of the year. Meanwhile, charter schools have accumulated $481 million in net assets, $336 million of which is unrestricted cash.
The Council can and should fully fund DCPS for the students it serves and can be expected to serve for part of the year by relying on the OSSE-embraced metric to measure enrollment. Such an approach would substantively benefit our city’s education landscape by:
· creating more balance between DCPS and the charter sector;
· enabling DCPS to fill some of the most acute needs in the upcoming year (by adding funding for between 1000 and 2000 additional students to the DCPS budget); and
· at long last, funding DCPS to deal with the enormous challenges of contending with mid-year mobility. Students come and go to DCPS schools mid-year, creating enormous challenges; they generally only leave charter schools mid-year, often relieving challenges and always leaving behind the dollars budgeted to serve them.
We urge that whatever funds you add for education in the budget you release next week go directly to DCPS, albeit with a direction that DCPS use the funds (1) in the schools that experienced the largest cuts in real terms in the Mayor's proposed budgets; (2) the schools where the most at risk dollars were used to supplant as opposed to supplement general education funding; and (3) the schools that experience the highest number of midyear entries. Unfortunately, the three criteria largely point to the same schools. We must urgently address the needs of those schools and we should not dilute our response by sending dollars where the needs are not nearly on the same scale.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.
Ward 1 Educational Council Executive Committee
Ward 3 Education Network
Ward 4 Education Alliance
Ward 5 Education Council
Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization
Ward 7 Education Council
Ward 8 Education Council
DC Fiscal Policy Institute
Washington Teachers Union
Teaching for Change
Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights
21st Century School Fund
Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators
The Education Town Hall/We Act Radio
Educating our children is a responsibility we all share. As a community, the health of our future depends on it. We understand community values in Ward 7. As the Chair of the Ward 7 Education Council, I am proud to be joined by all of our ANCs and our Ward 7 Democrats in demanding the DC Council use this vote on Tuesday May, 14 to fully, fairly, and equitably fund our schools.
Ward 7 is home to 18 DC Public Schools, most of which are losers in Mayor Bowser’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20). Our schools serve high numbers of at-risk students but are receiving some of the lowest levels of funding support in real dollars.
We have the opportunity in this budget to put all our children on equal footing. Currently, we are not giving a fair shot to all our students. Year after year, it is the same schools, in the same neighborhoods, serving the same kids that we choose not to invest in, and for far too long those have been in Ward 7 communities. They are the communities with some of the worse health, wealth, and educational outcomes.
To take a one-size-fits-all approach by increasing the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) for all students ignores that not all students are facing acute cuts. It ignores our true pain points and sacrifices equity in service of equality. It is like giving the healthy an extra dose of medicine, instead of giving the full and necessary dose to the patient in front of you who is clearly in pain and hoping somehow that cures all of our illnesses. To treat the patient is equitable. To treat everyone is equality.
I ask our city council to invest in the schools that need it most. To address the problem immediately facing us: steep budget cuts for schools like Woodson, the only high school every one of our children in Ward 7 has the right to attend. With the current budget proposal, Woodson could lose up to 10 teachers this year. It lost 7 positions last year. How does that put Woodson in the position to prepare our kids for the future they deserve
Specifically, the Council needs to:
· Add $4.5 million to the FY20 budget for DCPS Schools in Ward 7 to close the gap in school budgets between FY 19 and FY 20 due to added security and staff costs transferred to school budgets.
· Add $2.8 million to the FY20 budget for DCPS Schools in Ward 7 to replace the at-risk funds being used to supplant and not supplement the comprehensive school staff model as the law requires.
· Embrace a multi-year investment of $9 million over the course of 3 years to strengthen our HD Woodson and Anacostia feeder systems pursuant to plans developed in collaboration with communities and with the expectation that that investment will more than pay for itself over time through savings and increased efficiencies.
These three investments offer a fiscally responsible path to achieve what is a universally acknowledged, but all too often ignored goal for the District -- to ensure a quality matter-of-right path from PreK through 12 for every family, in every community in the District,beginning with the feeder patterns in Ward 7 which have historically seen the least investment.