DC Council COW Budget Oversight Hearing on All Education Agencies
March 28, 2022
Testimony of Suzanne Wells
Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the FY23 DCPS budget. I am Suzanne Wells, President of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization. I’m also a community member on the Eastern High School LSAT.
What has become clear from our member schools is that most of the schools whose budgets allow them to keep their current staff are only able to do so because of covid recovery funds that were added to school budgets. The addition of these one-time funds makes it appear our schools are adequately funded, when nothing could be further from the truth. We are very concerned about the budget cuts that are expected next year when the covid recovery funds are not available.
Because the schools are not adequately funded we are also seeing schools forced to use their at-risk dollars to maintain their current staff. The lack of adequate funding doesn’t allow schools to target their at-risk dollars to the students with the most needs, and continues long-standing practices of using at-risk dollars to augment school budgets.
Our city leaders must work together to ensure schools have adequate local funds that cover rising costs, and provide stability in school staffing from one year to the next. Our city’s education budget is $2.2 billion dollars to educate approximately 96 ,000 students. It’s past time for the council to look wholistically at the costs for both DCPS and the public charter school sector to find ways to most efficiently use our education dollars.
The FY23 budget includes funding to build-out the Georgetown Day School property the City purchased in order to alleviate overcrowding at Wilson High School. DCPS has indicated a portion of the seats at this new high school will be reserved for out-of-boundary and at-risk students; some have reported up to 50% of the seats (500) will be for out-of-boundary and at-risk students. While on the surface this might sound like a good idea, there are multiple concerns with this plan. To reserve these out-of-boundary and at-risk seats assumes this new school in Ward 3 will be more desirable, and families will want to choose it over their in-boundary feeder school. A shift of up to 500 high school students to a new high school in Ward 3 by design will reduce the enrollment in our by-right feeder high schools. Is this what is intended? The city must continue to strengthen the feeder patterns in all parts of the city instead of opening up new seats in Ward 3 and encouraging families to travel across town for a quality education. The opening of this new high school will bring the total number of high schools in DC to 38. This is far more high schools than our city needs, especially in light of declining student population numbers.
I hope there is a commitment to ensure our families can rely on predictable feeder patterns, programming, and staffing at our schools. Our students deserve nothing less.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.