Testimony of Evan Yeats on Behalf of ANC4B01
Committee of the Whole Public Roundtable on DCPS Initial School Level Budgets
April 2, 2021, 9:30am
Dear Chair Mendelson and Councilmembers:
Thank you for the opportunity to submit this written testimony. This testimony is largely based Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Priorities, passed unanimously at a properly-noticed meeting by our Commission on March 22, 2021.
Students, families, and schools have faced unprecedented challenges over the previous year. The COVID-19 (coronavirus) public health emergency deepened already existing inequities that have plagued the District’s public education system. The challenges facing schools in DC demand a budget that prioritizes students across the District through an equity framework. Previous attempts to ensure equity have not succeeded — particularly in ensuring funding for at-risk students follows those students to their school and supplements existing funding — and current budgeting practices will only perpetuate those gaps. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B supports a budget that not only mitigates the harm caused to students and schools through the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, but also works to erase longstanding gaps in funding for students of color, low-income students, English-language learners, students with disabilities, and their schools.
In Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B, District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS)’s initial proposed budgets include significant cuts at Takoma Education Campus, Whittier Education Campus and Lasalle-Backus Education Campus. Each one of these schools serves student populations with significant need, but that need is not met by the proposed DCPS budgets. While DCPS has testified that the losses of general education teacher positions are caused by the transition of students from the education campus to Ida B. Wells Middle School, the Ida B. Wells middle school budget has not been increased by an equivalent number of general education teaching positions.
In addition, these schools are losing seven English as a Second Language teacher positions, of the 57 being cut across DCPS. Students learning English are among those supposedly targeted for additional support by DCPS, however, by cutting the teaching staff they rely upon and have built relationships with, DCPS is undermining these students.
These schools were also negatively impacted by DCPS’s decision to forgo federal Head Start grant funding and lay off 83 staff members working with vulnerable early childhood populations. It means that further staff cuts compound already existing decisions to remove supports in vulnerable school communities.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B requests the Fiscal Year 2022 budget for the District of Columbia fully fund individual District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) school budgets and ensure that no school experiences staff or program cuts of any kind so that federal and local relief funding are in addition to existing staff and resources at schools. In addition, ANC 4B has requested that federal relief funds for DCPS provide school-level support and flexibility instead of being spent centrally and externally by requiring that DCPS issue guidance to principals stating that funds can be used for staffing, can be spent over time, and do not require immediate obligation.
DCPS has received or will receive shortly $277,517,055.14 in federal relief funding. Instead of using the money to retain highly-trained and experienced staff that our children know and love and that serve students with some of the most need, they are instead hiring temporary tutors and non-teaching staff. The “several hundred” monitor positions that DCPS recently opened to hiring are “long-term temporary” with no benefits and low pay. These budgeting decisions are irresponsible, immoral and do not reflect a commitment to our children and our values or to the success of our children. They are also completely unnecessary.