FY17 Budget Update

It’s time we restore the urgency to education reform.

Our city's leaders often discuss the fact that the District is the "fastest growing" or has the "fastest improving" schools in the nation. However, we fail to address the fact that these same national tests also paint a stark view of persistent and growing achievement gaps. The message that our city is planning to invest "an extra $220 million into school modernization over the next two years" overshadows the fact that even after this expenditure more than a dozen of our schools will not be modernized before 2023 and that our school modernization process is still marred by inefficiencies and a lack of accountability.

Katelyn, a student at Eliot-Hine Middle School, cried when she testified before the DC Council last year, saying she and her classmates shouldn't have to attend a school that reminds them of the homeless shelter where several of her friends live. "Just because we're kids doesn't mean we don't have rights... It is not enough to believe in us. You must invest in us also," read her testimony.

We often look at investments in education in terms of expenditures per student and academic program. But there's another key piece of the puzzle: the poor condition of our school facilities.

EH_Bathroom.pngLast week, Greater Greater Education published an article I authored about the conditions at Eliot-Hine MS here in Ward 6. Eliot-Hine has much to be proud of including becoming just the 2nd middle school in the District to offer the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme, an innovative Radio/TV Broadcasting program, small class size, and much more. However, the facility at Eliot-Hine leaves a lot to be desired and the city – whether we discuss the investment in the facility when Eliot and Hine were merged, the [still] delayed science labs, or the full modernization – has failed time and again to fulfill promises to renovate and improve the facility.

While I don’t believe facilities alone make a great school, they are a sign to our communities of the value we place in our students. Sub-standard facilities have a great impact on a school community by causing a decline in academic achievement, impacting enrollment, and reducing parental and community involvement.

 

Eliot-Hine and many other schools in our community,

and across our city, need your help.

 

While the FY17 budget proposal includes a large investment in our school facilities, the school modernization process remains fraught with issues and several schools in Ward 6 – including but not limited to Jefferson Academy MS, Garrison ES, Capitol Hill Montessori @ Logan, and Shaw MS are once again being left behind.

While I’m sympathetic to the limitations in our city’s budget, the new prioritization system developed by DCPS to evaluate schools in the Capital Improvement Plan for FY19 and beyond was developed without any community involvement and relies, as did past versions of the tool, upon faulty data and assumptions.

We must engage the community, per the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Student Assignment, to "secure input into the studies on school capacity, utilization and attendance zones" and the modernization of our school buildings to ensure we don’t over or under build. And, I strongly believe that before we consider moving forward with major renovations that our city must develop clear standards for the basic needs of students (health, safety, lighting, acoustics) and programmatic needs (science labs) and ensure that all facilities meet these requirements first. To put it simply, we should not begin another $75 million renovation until we are certain that the basics are met for every student in the District. Further, until DCPS & DGS demonstrate that they can fulfill the promises they make to our community about improvements and renovations, big and small, we must be skeptical of the promises that are being made, especially those in future budget years.

 

Make Your Voice Heard.  Testify on the DCPS Budget.

The Council will be listening to citizen concerns about the DCPS budget on Thursday, April 14th. You can sign up to speak at either 10:00 AM or 5:00 PM. 

Sign up here  http://bit.ly/EdOversight16 or by calling 202-724-8061

 

Capital Budget Talking Points:

  • Thank you for your support of school modernization in the FY17 Capital Budget. However, a number of questions remain about our city’s plans to modernize our schools.
  • Per the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Student Assignment, the school modernization process must better engage the community to "secure input into the studies on school capacity, utilization and attendance zones" and how these issues relate to school modernization to ensure schools are not under- or over-built.
  • We must treat our students with the respect they deserve. No student should attend a facility with inadequate lighting, with heating and cooling systems that don’t work, or in a classroom where the acoustics prevent learning.
  • No student should attend a school that fails to meet their basic academic needs. Please ensure that all middle school students should access to science labs and other required facilities.
  • Our city must develop a system to ensure that all school maintenance requests are completed, to the satisfaction of the school community, in a timely manner.

 

DCPS Operating Budgets.

Across #Ward6, we continue to see growing enrollment, especially in our elementary schools and, as a result, our school operating budgets continue to grow (in absolute terms if not on a per-student basis). And, as I’ve spoken with school communities over the past month, schools are making informed decisions on their budget and planning investments in people and programs that will help continue their success.

While the overall operating budget news is positive, there is a concerning trend. Across the city, DCPS is failing to appropriately invest in our at-risk students. At-Risk funding was added to the budget three years ago to provide additional, targeted resources to DC’s high-poverty students. However, an analysis of the FY 2017 budget shows by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute indicates that nearly half of the “at-risk” funding allocated by DC Public Schools (DCPS) to individual schools is being used to support core functions which are intended to be funded for all schools and should not require dipping into supplemental at-risk funds.

At Ward 6’s Eastern Senior High School, at-risk funding is being utilized to support core staff in the classroom, attendance counselors and for an athletic coordinator. Without considering at-risk funding, the student to teacher ratio at Eastern would be over 25 to 1, the highest among DC comprehensive schools (and this ratio doesn’t take into account that teachers require planning periods and the new professional development burdens being placed on Department Chairs, which are also not fully-funded).

 

Teaching positions in Budget

Projected Enrollment

Ratio

 

Additional At-Risk Funding for Teachers

Anacostia

32.5

573

17.63

 

$ 562,830

Ballou

52.2

1058

20.27

 

$ 844,245

Eastern

39

995

25.51

 

$ 656,635

Wilson

85

1783

20.98

 

$ 566,336

Woodson

34.3

637

18.57

 

$ 281,415

Please ask the Council to:

  • Ensure at-risk funding supplements, rather than replace, core functions.
  • Ensure school communities have increased flexibility over the use of at-risk funds.

 

Public Charter School Budgets.

I'm equally concerned about the budgets and facility concerns of our public charter schools. However, the budget process for those public schools is much different and does not lend itself to this same level of analysis. School budgets, both operating and capital, are allocated on a per-student basis. I share on-going concerns, being discussed by the Deputy Mayor’s Cross-Sector Taskforce, on charter school budget transparency, limited access to appropriate facilities as well as other issues.

 

SBOE Budget:

On December 11th, the State Board submitted its budget showing that the agency required $1.4 million to continue its service to the community. Unfortunately, the Administration's proposed FY2017 Budget is simply not sufficient for the work of DC State Board of Education, Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education and the Office of the Student Advocate to effectively continue to serve the community.

On April 1st, State Board President Jacobson notified the Council of the budget shortfall. Jacobson writes that the budget inaccurately “reflects no change from the agency budget submission to the Administration’s proposed budget.” 

Without adequate funding, the DC State Board of Education cannot protect students, assist parents or enact effective policy. 

Please ask the Council to fully fund the State Board of Education by restoring $200,000 to our agency’s budget.

 

Non-Budget Topics:

PARCC 

PARCC Testing is beginning. Please ensure your students are at school on-time and ready to take the test.

 

SBoE work. Health Standards

In 2007, the SBOE approved the current version of the Health Education Standards. Since then, education standards and data on District students’ health outcomes show a pressing need for change that results in robust health education standards. You spoke and we heard you. After multiple public engagement forums and significant research, the full health education standards have been released. The Board expects to vote on these standards at our next public meeting.  Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

 

SBoE work. Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

In the coming months, the Board of Education will be working with our partners in education to develop new accountability measures for our city's schools. These measures, required under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), continues to mandate annual testing of students across the city but allows states (well, District in this case) to develop additional accountability measures. I look forward to engaging with many of you over the next few months as we develop priorities and develop a new system to ensure that our students graduate with the skills and abilities they need to succeed in college and the workforce.

 

Lottery Results

The District released results of the Common Lottery last week. Please let me know of any questions or concerns you had about the Lottery process. As we work with the Deputy Mayor’s office to improve the Lottery, I’ll share your suggestions and concerns. And, in a small victory:

"In response to feedback, My School DC will publish data on the # of seats offered in the lottery by grade and school." #‎ThankYou.

 

Ward 6 Spring Bird Count for Kids

The Brent Elementary New Year's Bird Count for Kids has become the Ward 6 Spring Bird Count. Join me at Brent Elementary (301 North Carolina, SE) on Saturday, May 7 at 9:30 AM to bring birding and the outdoors into the lives of families from across #Ward6. Contact Mike Mangiaracina at mike.mangiaracina@gmail.com for details. 

 

 

Thank you for all your support.

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