Today, the Committee on Education released its FY2016 budget proposal. While I appreciate the work that Councilmember Grosso and his staff have done to prepare the FY16 budget, ensuring the renovations of our neighborhood middle schools have been my priority in this year's budget and I am disappointed to see that the renovations of Eliot-Hine MS and Jefferson Academy MS were not restored to FY2016 and that the capital budget fails to include plans for the reopening of Shaw MS. Despite what I know were noble intentions, the DCPS Capital Improvement Plan Priorities developed by the Committee and utilized to prioritize school renovation spending contains serious flaws – both in design and in data. As such, I cannot support the budget and I ask that you contact the Council asking them to support Amendments to the FY2016 spending plan.
You can find the Committee Report, including the capital spending plan here. The Education Committee will vote on the budget proposal tomorrow, Thursday, May 14th.
How bad decisions and flawed data impact our #Ward 6 Middle Schools
Councilmember Grosso and his team should be commended for attempting to solve a problem that other city leaders have shied away from. However, the effort was destine to fail, largely because accurate and informed data on the demand for and condition of our schools is limited. In just the last week, I’ve asked multiple city agencies how many seats our city offered in this year’s My School DC Lottery for 6th graders and no one knows (or will share) the answer.
The most serious design/data flaws in the tool the committee developed to better prioritize our city's capital investments relate to how enrollment trends are captured and utilized. The tool utilized by the committee looks at Pre-K enrollment to estimate elementary school demand but fails to look at 4th/5th grade enrollment to predict middle school demand. A well-designed tool will look at both the fact that students have a right to advance to their current school’s “destination” school as well as attend their geographically in-boundary school for all levels. Because many Ward 6 elementary schools have large out-of-boundary populations (something I'm quite proud of), the tool fails to accurately project potential MS enrollment throughout Ward 6.
A second glaring example of flaws in the data utilized in the tool utilized by the committee is evident in the ratings for “Facility Condition.” The tool relies upon data provided by Department of General Services (DGS) 2014 DCPS School Facilities Assessment. As a result of the rankings provided by DCPS, the committee’s tool gives both Stuart-Hobson MS and Eliot-Hine MS the same “4” rating for “facility condition.” Given that Stuart-Hobson MS completed a multi- million renovation in the past year while the Eliot-Hine MS community had to lobby the mayor to fix broken toilets and lacks windows that open, we must accept that the data from which this ranking is drawn is flawed.
Just last week, I visited Eliot-Hine MS to help students learn how to prepare for job interviews. The room where the workshop was held lacked white boards, projectors and other basic requirements of a 21st Century middle school experience. The air conditioning unit was so loud that students couldn't hear the presentation and I couldn't understand questions. After turning the A/C off, the room quickly became unbearably hot. These are the type of conditions that DGS rates "Good" and which received a "4" from the Education Committee's tool. I hold our students in higher regard and expect more for them at all of our neighborhood's schools.
These are just the most glaring examples of the problems in the committee's decision. Despite good intentions, the DCPS Capital Improvement Plan Priorities falls well short of the goal and cannot be utilized to direct billions of dollars of city funds.
Please CALL and EMAIL the following Education Committee members asking them to support #Ward6 Schools.
- CM Grosso, Chair of the Education Committee –
email@example.com; @cmdgrosso; Tel 202-724-8105
- CM Anita Bonds, Education Committee Member –
firstname.lastname@example.org; @anitabondsdc; Tel: 202-724-8064
Please copy Ms. Bonds’ Chief of Staff, David Meadows, at email@example.com
Please support amendments tomorrow during the Education Committee’s vote on the budget proposal to renovate #Ward6 schools that are in desperate need of repairs.
Why you should do this.
- The Education Committee’s DCPS Capital Improvement Plan Priorities fails to make equitable and efficient use of city’s resources to build middle schools of choice in areas of highest need.
- The Education Committee’s DCPS Capital Improvement Plan Priorities contains inaccurate data and makes faulty assumptions that undermine efforts to build great schools in all communities.
- Several #Ward6 school facilities are not acceptable as a learning environment for any students. We must prioritize investments in areas of need to create schools of choice that will meet the educational needs of students.