Testimony of Sandra Moscoso
DC Council CoW Budget Oversight Hearing on all education agencies
March 28, 2022, 9:00AM
Good morning Chairman and Councilmembers. I am Sandra Moscoso, Vice President of the Ward 2 Ed Council and Secretary of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization. I’m also an at-large member of School Without Walls’ HS HSA and LSAT.
I am here to express deep concern for the anticipated impact of DCPS’ budget model on the long-term stability of school operational budgets.
You have heard from many of us about the lack of transparency throughout the budget model development process. When the FY23 initial budgets were released in February, our collective concerns were realized. The new budget formula has not resolved the chronic underfunding of our public schools.
Many schools saw cuts to their ability to fully fund their programs and current staffing needs. Thomson Elementary, a school where 41% of students are considered ‘at risk’, will lose a classroom teacher, and in spite of having a 46% ELL population, will also lose 1.5 ELL teachers.
In fact, under the new budget model, five out of eleven* Ward 2 schools face cutting 1 to 4.5 positions. Twelve out of fourteen Ward 6 schools will cut from ½ a position to 6 positions. In FY23, schools can credit mystery ‘one-time’ “stability” or “hold harmless” funds for keeping staffing more or less whole. These funds are considered a mystery because the criteria the Mayor and DCPS use to allocate them are a secret. The one-time funds create an appearance of comfort and stability in the baseline budget, when, in fact, the budget has been supplemented on a one-time basis.
Once those one-time mystery funds are gone in FY24 and beyond, Wards 2 and 6 stand to lose 47 staff or more, if as in past years, budgets do not keep up with rising costs.
I’d like to thank Chairman Mendelson for introducing bills to help schools to stabilize budgets. As the DC Fiscal Policy Institute put it, our city leaders must “Ensure that schools have enough local, recurring dollars to cover rising costs.”
I hope we can continue to work on these bills and pass laws to ensure our families are able to rely on predictable programming. Families need predictability and so do staff. Per EmpowerEd, DC has the highest turnover rate in the country with 20-25 % of teachers leaving their schools each year.
We’ve learned this year how difficult it is to replace teachers, and how disruptive vacant positions are to schools and to student mental health and learning. We cannot continue to weather volatile budgets, volatile staffing, and volatile learning environments.
Thank you for holding this hearing and thank you for taking action.
*Duke Ellington is not included, as their budget and organizational structure are not yet clear.