Ward 6 Checklist for Budget Legislation

Picture1Checklist for budget legislation

Below are some priorities for future budget legislation from Ward 6 parents  


On transparency of school budgets:

☐ Ensure the public has sufficient data to identify exactly how “at-risk” funds are allocated and spent at each school, for both DCPS and charter schools.

☐ Report for each school the amount of “at-risk”, special education, and English learner funding separately by category and differentiate these categories from money spent on general education (e.g., comprehensive staffing model).

☐ Create categories that allow stakeholders to easily determine how much money is spent at individual school sites, as opposed to central office administrative costs (e.g., resources such as instructional superintendents should be coded as central office).

For DCPS schools only:

☐ Require DCPS to identify separate funding amounts by school for “at-risk”, special education, English learner, and general education in initial school budgets.

☐ Require DCPS to publish the percent change in year to year school budgets after removing costs moved from central office to school budgets (e.g., school security officers) and accounting for increases in staffing costs and enrollment changes.


On how funds are allocated and spent:

☐  Enforce the law that requires “at-risk” funds to be allocated directly to school sites and to be used as supplemental funds, as opposed to using being used to back-fill general education costs.

☐  Require that charter LEAs also use “at-risk” funds to supplement instruction or services. Currently, the law only applies to DCPS schools.

For DCPS schools only:

☐ Give discretion back to school communities to determine how to allocate “at-risk” funds, within certain criteria outlined by DCPS.

☐ Require DCPS to meaningfully engage school communities before making any changes to the school budget model. Also require DCPS to publish side-by-side comparisons of each school budget under the old and new models at least one fiscal year prior to implementation.

October 31, 2019

Suzanne Wells Testimony – Digital Equity and Financial Literacy Council Hearing

Education Committee

Public Hearing

District of Columbia Public Schools Student Technology Equity Act of 2019, B23-0196

November 6, 2019

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  My name is Suzanne Wells, and I am the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization.

Ward 6 parents have been at the forefront of advocating for adequate and reliable technology in our schools.  Last year four of our school PTAs (Miner Elementary, Payne Elementary, Amidon-Bowen Elementary, and JO Wilson Elementary) were founding members of a parent advocacy effort to address the unreliable technology in DCPS.  They have since formed a city-wide coalition of parents who have been advocating for additional funding and support for school technology, as well as a long-range technology plan.

Ward 6 schools have struggled to maintain working technology. Ward 6 schools don’t just use computers for testing, they also use them for learning. Several Ward 6 schools use blended learning programs that combine digital learning with traditional teaching. Having Central Office provide devices for grades 3-12 will help support our schools.  Having a comprehensive technology plan will help to ensure there is a multi-year, sustainable plan for funding and providing technology to schools, not just a short-term initiative.

I believe the DCPS Student Technology Equity Act is needed because it recognizes DCPS has not done an adequate job in providing technology throughout the school system.  The bill places aggressive, but achievable timelines for conducting a needs assessment, and developing a comprehensive technology plan.  My remaining comments focus on questions for the Education Committee about the Act.

  • The Act seems focused on student computers, tablets and similar devices. Schools today use Smartboards in classrooms, and teachers need laptops to do their work. Because technology such as Smartboards is not included, and teachers are not mentioned in the bill, is it the intention of the Education Committee that these not be included in the comprehensive technology plan?

I believe the Act should be flexible and broad enough to cover a wide range of technology outside of computers and tablets, and written in a way that acknowledges there will likely be new developments in technology we don’t even know about today.  I would also caution the Committee in using overly prescriptive words such as “a plan to achieve or maintain a one-to-one-device-to-student ratio for grades 3 – 12,” and instead use language that seeks to optimize the use of technology in the classroom to support student learning.

  • The Act gives significant responsibility to the Technology Steering Committee. The Committee is tasked to contract with a DC-based partner, conduct the technology needs assessment, and develop a comprehensive technology plan.  As I read the bill, I was struck by how much responsibility is given to the Technology Steering Committee instead of to DCPS.

Many, many organizations have technology plans that are developed in-house. Of course, many of the members of the Technology Steering Committee members will undoubtedly be DCPS staff.  Yet, I could also envision a successful path forward where DCPS is directed to do many, if not all, of the responsibilities described in this Act, and the Technology Steering Committee advices DCPS on the technology audit and the comprehensive technology plan.

Can the Education Committee explain why it believes placing the responsibilities in the hands of the Technology Steering Committee rather than DCPS will be the best approach?

  • Finally, implementation of a comprehensive technology plan will require funding. I would hate to see DCPS have to reduce teaching staff or cut out other vital needs in the school to fund technology.  I encourage the Education Committee to work with DCPS to find the funding to implement this Act.

Scott Goldstein Testimony – Digital Equity and Financial Literacy Council Hearing

Testimony on Digital Equity and Financial Literacy in Washington, DC

EMpoweredScott Goldstein- Executive Director, EmpowerEd

November 5, 2019

 

Good Afternoon Chairman Grosso and Chairman Mendelson.

I am here to support and call for strengthening the Student Technology Equity Act before you today. I also strongly support the financial literacy bill and its pilot program, but will focus my testimony today on digital equity.  This bill is a basic starting point- providing for a full audit and needs assessment of the technology and access in our school system right now. The council is on the right track to prioritize digital equity and establish a starting point that enables us to layout a blueprint for action.  As a result of the excellent advocacy from parents and allies, DCPS has already taken positive steps in this direction.

For a moment, I want to back up to why this matters. In 1950, it took nearly 150 years for the amount of knowledge in the world to double.  In 2013, the amount of knowledge in the world doubled every 12 months.  Now, in 2019, it’s every 12 HOURS.  There is a basic canon of knowledge our students need to be prepare to exercise citizenship, but given the rapidly expanding universe of content in the world, what is perhaps more important is for students to know how to sift through that knowledge, to search for it, extrapolate what they need and analyze it effectively.  If that’s not reason enough, the influence of social media, online advertising and its recent effect on our national elections should be enough to convince us we need to take digital literacy and media literacy very seriously.  It’s also why it’s essential that we not focus only on how many laptops, tablets, etc… that we have but also on how we’re using them.

I remember very well as a teacher when each spring rolled around and with it, testing season.  But it wasn’t necessarily the schedule changes that came with it that bothered me most.  Instead, it was that I was now facing two months (yes, that’s how long the testing window often is) with no access to laptops since every available laptop was going to be used for PARCC testing. That was around the time of year that I did one of my favorite projects- a social movement project that allowed students to take on a social movement from history and dive deep into it, analyze it and think about how it continues today. That required deep research and was made nearly impossible without laptops.  So what did I do?  I bought tablets for my whole class- digging into my own pocket and getting help from friends and family.  Then, once I got the project underway, I was told by administrators that I couldn’t use the tablets I bought anyway for my project because the wireless network couldn’t stand having all the students testing plus students doing research on tablets.  So for a whole two months- no internet access, no in school research for our students. It so happens that in many content areas, the curriculum demands teachers teach units that include research, video access and more during that very testing window, and yet we can’t teach the required curriculum when we don’t have access to the technology called for in our curriculum.   That’s not an acceptable status quo for our students.

When I did have access- what mattered most to me was not just the content my students could access, but building in my students the ability to access and analyze the world of information at their fingertips.  Students often did not know what to write in a google search to get the right result, how to weed through thousands of results, how to determine source credibility- all essential skills. This bill should be strengthened to audit technology use and the current practices in educating our students for digital literacy in addition to access to the hardware itself. As always, given that half of our students attend the District’s Public Charter Schools, I would hope the council would not shy away from ensuring that technology equity is not a promise we make only to half of our students.  Access to this technology and to the skills needed to navigate it are essential for our students current and future success. Thank you.

Jessica Sutter Testimony – DCPS SY2021 Budget Hearing

DCPS Public Budget Hearing

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Maury Elementary School

Thank you Chancellor Ferebee for the chance to speak this evening. My name is Jessica Sutter and I am honored to represent Ward 6 on the DC State Board of Education. I am testifying today in my personal capacity.

Over the past year I’ve toured DCPS schools all across Ward 6. And as I have chatted with principals and staff, I have noticed a consistent theme about resources in our schools – inequity.

We talk about “neighborhood public schools of right” as though they are an equal opportunity public resource. But, touring our Ward 6 schools makes it clear: our neighborhood schools are resourced in inequitable ways. Much of that inequity is driven by unequal access to resources outside of the UPSFF.

Maury Elementary, where we sit today, is my zoned neighborhood school. I toured this beautiful new facility earlier this month and listened as parent tour guides educated community members about the school. I learned that every classroom has a teacher’s aide and that the PTA fundraises to hire those staff. I also learned that Maury students have Chinese language instruction as a special and that every 5th grader gets to go to space camp, again thanks to the generosity of a year-long fundraising effort. These are wonderful assets for a public school and ones I would be thrilled to see every child in the District be able to access. But, since these assets are outside our funding formula, students and families at Maury have a different experience of public education than schools without an active and dedicated PTA with significant fundraising capacity.

At Van Ness Elementary, an intentional school design focused on the whole child guides every decision about work in the school building – including budgeting. The core of the model is a thoughtful vision for elementary education: student well-being, students as makers & student ownership of learning. As I toured Van Ness with their partner organization, Transcend Learning, I saw joyful students in calm, productive classrooms designed to set just the right tone for helping students focus on the work of learning each day. I also learned that Van Ness has a full-time psychologist, a full-time social worker and two behavior techs with support from a consulting Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Principal Robinson-Rivers is candid about the outside grants they’ve secured to cover the cost of both the additional staffing and training for all school staff to make a model like theirs work, but she is also candid about her belief that this staffing is needed for ALL schools to adequately serve students.

As DCPS plans its budget for FY2021, I hope that the system will begin from a vision-level, rather than starting from the inequity we all know exists. What does it look like to serve the whole child in all of our schools in ways that are truly equitable? What kind of compensatory funding is needed to provide adequate staffing and capacity-building resources to schools that do not have the outside support of PTAs or innovation grants? What could it look like to make a model like Maury’s or Van Ness’ available to all students in all neighborhoods of all wards of the District? And what stands in our way?

If we fail, again, to view every school and student as worthy of opportunities, to start from an equitable foundation, we will continue to fail our students.

Thank you.

Cathy Reilly Testimony – DCPS SY2021 Budget Hearing

DCPS Public Budget Hearing

October 29, 2019

Cathy Reilly for the Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators

Thank you for this opportunity

I am here as the Executive Director of SHAPPE. I also facilitate the Ward 4 Ed Alliance and am a member of C4DC (Communities for DC Public Schools (C4DC)

We are in favor of a robust comprehensive staffing model that truly provides funding for required staff complimented by enrollment staffing.  It is our understanding that there will be more transparency this year.  I appreciate your outreach on both a budget and a potential strategic planning committee and welcome the opportunity to work closely with you.

Congratulations on the enrollment increase for DCPS and particularly on your statement at the press conference that more families are choosing their in boundary DCPS school.

Last year DCPS added application seats the high school level by opening Bard DC, and expanding Banneker.  Bard families are legitimately concerned about the promises made and how their building needs will be met.

It is my hope that this year there will be a focus on how to build on attracting families to the schools of right – strengthening the feeder patterns and strengthening the staffing and options at the neighborhood high schools.  These are difficult issues to balance between new schools DCPS has opened and its obligations to the schools of right.  We strongly support a 5 year DCPS master education planning process that would inform a master facility plan for DCPS. It could provide criteria and input as well as predictability and stability.

The priorities expressed in our SHAPPE meetings and echoed in other meetings:

  • Roosevelt HS Global Studies School and Roosevelt STAY have outgrown their ability to partner as currently configured day programs at the Roosevelt campus.  Roosevelt STAY has demonstrated their need for their own space as an Opportunity Academy operating during the day.  WE are working hard in Ward 4 to attract families at the secondary level.  Roosevelt HS had to close enrollment to any out of boundary students, they continue to take in boundary. The crowding and limited use of the building is hurting the program. Roosevelt STAY has also had to stop enrollment students.  We need a plan for next year, formulated now.
  • MacFarland, Ida B Wells, Coolidge and Roosevelt’s success in continuing to attract more students than predicted is good news for honoring the Student Assignment Committee’s recommendation for middle schools in Wards 1, 4 and 7.  This will strengthen the feeder patterns for Cardozo and Woodson.
  • A number of the comprehensive high schools spoke about the inadequacy of the special education funding and thus staffing especially in schools that surpassed their enrollment projection.  This concern came from many who are not part of that community but see the need.  Students qualifying for these funds represent a substantial percentage of the population in many of our high schools.  The dyslexia hearing made clear that we can do better at the ECE and elementary level in screening and supporting these students as well.
  • With the enrollment increase there has been a demand for additional teachers that has been impossible to meet in the fall.  A suggestion is to reinstate a provisional certification for otherwise qualified candidates.  Also teachers excessed even if they have taken the bonus in the past may be on a contact list that could be available.
  • Planning periods are not taken into account in the staffing formula at the secondary level.  This means there is little flexibility and we have large classes especially in crowded schools.
  • We hope the budget for next year can look at how to equitably support programs across our high schools with a long and stable view.  They are minimally supported now through some NAF or CTE funds.
  • We would also like to see more support for translation in schools with large populations of families who do not speak English. Currently this is dependent on the generosity of a staff member.
  • Stability matters, the cost of turnover is high not only teacher and principal turnover but turnover at the administrative offices in central.  We would like to work with you in the budget and planning process to communicate investment and value to the DCPS team along with accountability.

DCPS is a city agency dependent on other agencies for different services.  While we will continue to advocate to the mayor and the Council on issues, we also need your voice.  For example with DGS, we are dependent on DGS for critical repairs like the HVAC system at Roosevelt and the fact that there are still areas of the building without a PA system. Roosevelt is not alone in having problems with a PA system. This is the only way of notifying a school community of danger.  It is a critical safety issue.  Elementary schools in our feeder patterns that received a phase one modernization are hurting now as those repairs age out.  How can your input into the capital budget support them.

With the expansion of schools, now at some levels with more seats than there are children in the city who can fill them, we need your voice in support of DCPS as the infrastructure system of right in our city.

In closing, I look forward to working with you to build on the momentum of this enrollment increase, and to continue supporting our DC public schools. Thank you

Rebecca Davis Testimony – DCPS SY2021 Budget Hearing

DCPS Public Budget Hearing

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Maury Elementary School

Thank-you for having a slide on EQUIITY, SUSTAINABIILITY & TRANSPARENCY since that is what II would like to address with regards to science education in DC Public Schools.

My name is Rebecca Davis I am an environmental education consultant and live in Ward 1 and work in Washington D.C.  I am contractor for MWCOG Clean Air Partners, and work on air quality and climate change education regionally. I am also a member of the DC Environmental Education Consortium- DCEEC one of the DCPS Science team Community Partners and as such have volunteered as a teacher trainer for Engineering is Elementary- EiE cornerstones.

I run the 1 min Climate Change film challenge with some funding from OSSE. And through OSSE ‘s Environmental Literacy Advancement Grant-ELAG funding I co-teach (Clean Air Partners) and Casey Trees a set of four investigations on air quality, its impact on our health and the role trees have in sequestering carbon and absorbing pollutants to 5th graders.

I stand before you as a witness to DCPS and DCPCS science education for the past 14 years. Equitable access to science education has been and continues to be an issue in DCPS.

I am excited that there are new science teaching requirements as of 2019 from The Office of Teaching and Learning. Science must now be taught (as a standalone subject) at minimum for:

  • 45 minutes/day (for the equivalent of at least one semester) in grades K-2
  • 30 minutes/day (for the entire school year) in grades 3-5

To understand DCPS’ commitment to this change I would like to make sure we appropriate the  funding necessary to the DCPS science team to enable them to sustain this change. To provide  professional development to ES teachers so that this additional 2 1/2hr of science instruction per week is valuable. And that a mechanism is put in place to hold ES accountable to implementing this new requirement.

It is the responsibility of a society that depends on science and technology, to educate and prepare its youths with basic science and engineering principles. It is our responsibility to have a student…

  • who has asthma know the basic structure and function of their respiratory system and know what triggers his/er asthma?
  • that understand food web and bioaccumulation so as to know not to eats fish s/he catches in the Anacostia?
  • to understand how trees grow and therefore understand how planting tree can mitigate climate change?
  • to know that phytoplankton provide more than half of the oxygen we breathe on Earth and therefore acts on keeping our ocean’s healthy?

Humans are born curious. I see my granddaughter less than a year old, testing the difference between a refrigerator sticker and a magnet, testing gravity with objects, testing velocity and friction with her body on playground slides. She doesn’t know yet, but she is playing with scientific principles or methods.

Our job as educators and parents is simple, it is to encourage curiosity and observations, embolden youths to ask a million questions (whether we know the answer or not) and support their countless experiments that follow. But let us be clear scientist don’t just do science experiments to test their hypothesis, they read about science, they write about science, and talk science. We can encourage our students to do the same. Science education is not an either-or, teaching science explicitly supports literacy and numeracy development and achievement.

Our job is to find ways to keep students interested in sciences as they finish elementary school when we see a significant drop off interest in science. Our job is to find ways to encourage interest in sciences and engineering through MS and HS , to create scientifically literate citizens who understand and can act on important issues  that will be facing their generation such as Climate Change and perhaps more importantly understanding health disparities  “life expectancy being shorter than their parents”.

We can do this by 1) increasing and having transparency regarding the science budget for DC public school if not in dollar amount then at least percentage compared to ELA, Math and Social Studies  2) developing ready set science cornerstones for all grade bands and providing PD  3)  assessing/measuring the success of the changes made to the Elementary Science Scheduling Requirements. As of 2019 The Office of Teaching and Learning requires that science be taught (as a standalone subject) at minimum for:

  • 45 minutes/day (for the equivalent of at least one semester) in grades K-2
  • 30 minutes/day (for the entire school year) in grades 3-5

As Neil deGrasse Tyson stated “ The problem in society is not kids not knowing science. The problem is adults not knowing science. They outnumber kids 5 to 1, they wield power, they write legislation. When you have scientifically illiterate adults, you have undermined the very fabric of what makes a nation wealthy and strong. “

Thank you for allowing me to address this important topic.

Rebecca Davis- rnjidavis (at) gmail (dot) com

 

 

 

Suzanne Wells Testimony – DCPS SY2021 Budget Hearing

DCPS Public Budget Hearing

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Maury Elementary School

 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify this evening.  My name is Suzanne Wells.  I am the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization, and our organization is a member of the Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities or C4DC.

First, I want to congratulate DCPS on the enrollment increase it saw for SY 2019-2020. DCPS now enrolls more than 51,000 students, and there was a 4% growth in in-boundary enrollment.  This enrollment growth is due to the hard work of principals and teachers, the efforts of the DCPS enrollment team to promote feeder patterns, the modernization of our city’s school buildings, the confidence families have in DCPS and much more.  This year’s enrollment growth gives us hope DCPS will meet, and hopefully exceed, it’s enrollment target of 54,000 by 2022.  This hard work must continue because there is still much work to be done to ensure every neighborhood has a high-quality, by-right school.  It can’t be emphasized enough that enrollment growth is important because school budgets are determined primarily by a school’s enrollment.

Currently, schools are allocated funds to support a Comprehensive Staffing Model.  This model ensures a baseline number of teachers, administrators, related arts teachers, and other staff.  The City Council has proposed legislation, and there have been discussions at DCPS, to move towards a School Based Budgeting model.  Ensuring all schools have librarians, music, art and PE teachers is important to ensuring a well-rounded education for children.  I strongly encourage DCPS to conduct careful analyses on comparisons between the Comprehensive Staffing Model and any new budget model considered in order to fully understand any trade-offs made before moving to a new model.  I encourage DCPS to engage stakeholders early in the process of analyzing the impacts of a new model.

Members of our organization have been very involved in ensuring at-risk funds are used in ways that are expected to improve student achievement. In the past, at-risk funds have been used for purposes not directly related to supporting at-risk youth.  I encourage DCPS to share more with schools the available research-based evidence as to what has been impactful in raising performance among at-risk youth to help inform school-based decisions, and to ensure school budgets are transparent about how at-risk funds are used.

Our members have also advocated for DCPS to continue funding for school technology and the Empowered Learners Initiative in the 2021 budget. We will not achieve digital equity until students in all grades have access to working computers, as well as support for becoming computer literate.

Finally, in looking at the FY2019 approved budget for the Public Education System, it lists over $63 million for non-public tuition and $90 million for special education transportation.  I believe these line numbers are directly related to DCPS not providing adequate educational services for special education youth at our neighborhood schools.  As DCPS works to strengthen its by right public school system, I encourage DCPS to always use its lens of promoting equity and work to support more students with special needs at our neighborhood schools.