Testimony by Sandra Moscoso at the Education Committee public hearing on B21-0115, Public Charter School Fiscal Transparency Amendment Act of 2015 Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am submitting this testimony as a DC Charter School Parent, a DC Public Schools Parent, and a member of the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization (CHPSPO). My message to Council and your influence over transparency of DC public charter school fiscal transparency is simple:

  • Ensure transparency in how funding decisions are made and allocated, particularly by the private management companies responsible for school and student services.
  • Ensure the most out of limited funds by supporting TRUE coordination between DC public and DC Charter schools.

On transparency, I don’t just mean canned, pre-cooked reports. I also mean open data. The city has made great strides over the past few years around making data and policy more accessible. The parent community has also made great strides in engaging around available data.

This sharing of data by education agencies has enabled education consumers to not just ask our city what it wants from schools and learning opportunities, but has also enabled communities to collaborate with governments in designing the future of education.

Any Councilmember who has attended a local civic hacking event can confirm that data analysis takes place not only in the Wilson building, in DCPS headquarters, at OSSE, but in libraries, community hubs, and living rooms.

The case for transparency are straightforward. As a parent, I want to be able to access how my son’s charter school is being funded, and whether this funding is comparable to my daughter’s DCPS.

I want to know that my son’s charter school isn’t at risk of losing a large population of the faculty when the school’s private management company decides to invest in opening in a new school nearby, with potentially competitive teacher salaries.

Recognizing that key decisions about my son’s education are made by what is in effect, a private company, I worry that my opportunity for holding the school accountable is really just one – that of moving him to another school.

If there is not transparency over how the public funds allocated to my son’s school are managed, I don’t see how the school’s parent body, the school’s board of trustees, the Public Charter School Board, or DC Council are able to exercise rigor in oversight.

I want to highlight here that closing schools is not something to celebrate, nor is it a sign of rigorous oversight. When a school closes, this means that we adults have failed the children in that school. We need to recognize that we are not only failing those children, but we are then also forcing them and all their friends to be displaced to other schools. This is not oversight, this is failure.

Where there is transparency, engaged communities can help to identify blind spots, and effectively collaborate with the DCPCSB, council, the DME and the city to strengthen schools.

On coordination, I recognize that resources are limited and funding is scarce. I believe that funding two public education sectors without strategic coordination between them exacerbates the issue of scarcity.

I have children in both sectors, and the problems I witness in both are quite similar. Aging facilities in need up updating, scarce resources for programming, and lack of stability around student mobility. These issues will require close coordination among the sectors (including understanding the impact of each other’s decisions).

Fund the schools here today adequately (DCPS and Charter), require transparency, hold them accountable, and give them a chance to succeed.

Thank you for your time and attention.

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