LaJoy Johnson-Law Testimony – Joint Budget Oversight Hearing for Education Agencies

TESTIMONY for Committee on Education Budget Oversight Proposed FY 21

Joint Budget Oversight Hearing for all Education Agencies

June 4, 2020

 LaJoy Johnson-Law, Ward 8 parent and disability and education advocate

Good Afternoon Chairman Mendelson, Councilmember Grosso and the Committee on Education. My name is LaJoy Johnson-Law (Ms. Law), and I am a community member of the ward 8 education council, resident of “The Great Ward 8, but most importantly, I am Abria’s mom. I advocate because of Abria, my miracle baby, but I am here to share the voices of my community, as many of them are unable to speak before you today. It is not a simple task to go to work, provide for your household, homeschool and collaborate with the school for your child, manage the digital divide, and ensure a family’s health, safety, and emotional well-being. Ward 8 families deserve the assurance that their needs are at the forefront of all policy and budget decisions that will directly impact their families. COVID-19 has shown us that we can no longer have multiple equity gaps in our education system.

We call for you to acknowledge that Ward 8 students are equitably accounted for. Many of the asks today are for a reinstatement of funds cut from the budget, and these cuts disproportionately impact Ward 8 communities. How can we claim to care for Ward 8 when we’ve made such cuts? It’s time that we rectify these oversights by implementing the following asks:

Equitable Budget Allocation for Ward 8 Schools, Parents, and Students:

  1. Increase at-risk weight from .225 to 0.37, close gap of $68.8 million. Not increasing the at-risk funding is a mistake- many of our children in Ward 8 are at-risk students and these dollars are needed to ensure they obtain equity.
  2. Fully fund DBH school-based mental health expansion with a $16 million budget allocation. The major cuts to DBH’s budget will cripple an already strained system’s ability to deploy providers to schools. It is counterproductive and potentially deadly to cut DBH’s budget when Ward 8 residents are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and as a result bear the brunt of the mental health repercussions of this pandemic.
  3. Fund safe passageways for schools in Ward 8. We understand the direct link between systemic oppression and violence in our communities, yet we’ve cut funding for existing violence prevention programs in the city. In a time of unprecedented economic and social upheaval, we must ensure that our communities have the support they need to navigate. Too many of our children have died as a result of our neglect, and we must take this opportunity to ensure Ward 8 children live to see adulthood.
  4. Support Digital Equity In DC Education’s ask to allocate an additional $11 million to fully fund a hybrid learning model and 1:1 computer access for all students in grades K-12. The Mayor’s budget does not adequately support technology (both the devices and IT support) for a hybrid learning model, in which students will spend a significant portion of time learning at home next school year.
  5. And finally, for the Council and Committee on Education to collaborate with the Ward 8 Education Council to help our families, teachers and schools.

We understand that this is a tough time for everyone and this is an unprecedented pandemic. But, in order for us to get through this together, we must include all of our stakeholders, and that includes educators, community members, and families. This public health emergency has only shown us the deep inequities that we have in our school system, inequities that we should all be ashamed of allowing to go on for so long and we should all be committed to improving these inequities immediately. It’s time to place people over politics or party and saving the lives of all students in all Wards over saving dollars. DC cannot continue to allow any more inequities in our education system. Parents and the Ward 8 community even wrote a letter which is attached to my written testimony to show that the Ward 8 Community Matters. Our Community Matters, Our Families Matter and Most of All our Children Matter!!! WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!

Thank you.

Ms. Law


Attachment

Ward 8 Parents hea broken over the lack of Parent Engagement and Representation in Distance Learning and DC Education during COVID-19

May 6, 2020

To: District of Columbia Mayor, Muriel E. Bowser

Cc: Chairman Phil Mendelson; Councilmembers Anita Bonds, David Grosso, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, Vincent Gray, Trayon White Sr.

Dear Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Reopen DC Committee for Education and Child Care

We, the parents of Ward 8, community members, and concerned residents were heartbroken to hear that there were no community parents and teacher members chosen to be on the DC Reopen education recovery committee. As a city, it is imperative that we include parent voices and their perspectives since they have been home physically educating students. It is critical to have a diverse group of community members in responding to COVID-19—to establish effective measures and actions in regards to education and child care.

Parents have been homeschooling their children and have been team players throughout the public health emergency, which is why it was so disturbing to hear that we were not included in the Reopen DC Education Recovery Committee. Parents’ voices have been at the forefront during this public health emergency and we all have been collaborative with our schools and teachers to give updates on our children. It is not a simple task to go to work, provide for your household, homeschool and collaborate with the school for your child, manage the digital divide and ensure a family’s health, safety, and emotional well being is taken care of. This has been a draining and difficult time for many parents. All of these stories and needs deserve to be at the forefront of all policy and budget decisions that will impact ward 8 families.

The perspective of parents and students need to be at the decision-making table in a proactive way to help make decisions regarding how learning will continue until there are effective and accessible measures to combat COVID-19. Decisions regarding the safety and health of our students, families, and communities should not be made without centering Ward 8 communities, parents, and teacher voices. Please do not allow, this city to reopen without acknowledging and accepting the wisdom, assistance, and institutional knowledge of parents, educators, and families that work, live and learn in every ward in the District of Columbia, but especially in ward 8.

We call for you to acknowledge and please right this wrong as Ward 8 students are equally and will most likely be negatively impacted by the decisions and guidance made by this committee. Representation will be achieved through the following guidance:

Inclusion in the decision-making process for Reopening D.C.

  • Immediately appoint community parent members to the recovery education committee representing each ward especially for Ward 8
  • Make equity and transparency the center in all decisions especially for Ward 8
  • Ensure the health and welfare of students, families, staff at all schools and recreation and child care facilities
  • Ensure a centralized entity that provides collaboration between families, schools and educational leadership in the city (DME, OSSE, SBOE, DCPS, PCSB, and all LEAs) for the recovery
  • Ensure every child has access to digital devices and tools ( Laptops, Chromebooks, internet, etc)
  • Ensure uniformed guidance on recapping the end of SY19-20 at the beginning of SY20-21
  • Ensure Clear, System-Wide Communication and policies between ALL LEAs

Equitable Budget Allocation for Ward 8 Schools, Parents, and Students

  • Include ward 8 parent voice in any upcoming budget decisions
  • Include ward 8 parent voice in creating a budget for the state board of education and OSSE to develop and create a standard distance learning protocol for the future and ensure community, school, and family collaboration for each LEA.
  • Ensure there are NO budget cuts for Ward 8 schools and at-risk funding
  • Fund safe passageways for schools in Ward 8

We understand that this is a tough time for everyone and this is an unprecedented pandemic, but in order for us to get through this together, we must include all of our stakeholders, and that includes educators, community members, and families. This public health emergency has only shown us the deep inequities that we have in our school system. All students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers deserve leadership and vision. It’s time to place people over politics or party and saving the lives of all students over saving dollars. DC cannot allow any more inequities in our education system. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Ward 8 Families, Teachers, Educators, and Community

Yolanda Mcleod, Cindy McNeil, Jacque Patterson, Sr., Mechellelee Edwards, Lanet Scott, Tameka Garner Barry Vanessa Lemme, Etta Johnston, Adoshia Robinson, Gabrielle Alston, Wendy Glenn, Yolanda Powers, Crystal Gray, LaTasha Morgan, Yolanda Corbett, Lakendra brown, Nikkeishia Parmely, Markina Hall, Patria Bursey, Chioma Oruh, Maka Taylor, Zakiya Duvall, Dr. Lois Void, Claudia Barragan, Camille Campbell, Lewis Newton, Ramona Barber, Sherrie Essix, Gloria Powell, Crystal Bowman, Caroline Coleman, Teresa Greene, Samantha Leach, Fred Hill, Charles Boston, Frenchie Anthony, Christy Webster, LaJoy Johnson-Law

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