Good evening DCPS Budget Team and Chancellor Ferebee. I am Danielle Drissel, a Ward 6 parent of students at Brent Elementary and Stuart Hobson, I am also a member of W6PSPO and the Capitol Cluster PTA Advocacy Chair but am addressing you in my personal capacity.
I am testifying this evening about the need for the FY2024 budget to meet three key goals: DCPS initial budgets that are stable and ensure full staffing; targeted support for before and after-school needs for working families at all schools and strategic budget allocations address learning loss and capitol investment to avoid losing federal resources tied to pandemic.
Our schools need full and consistent budgets. The annual stress of needing to advocate to fully fund their existing payroll is unnecessary and inefficient. In this era of teacher and staff attrition, the message that full staffing is not the budget baseline is demoralizing. The initial central office budgets for each school should fully fund payroll at existing staff levels.
Unfunded mandates are unacceptable. If schools will be required to implement new staffing mandates for the upcoming year, each school’s budget should include the funds for the additional staff. New requirements without new funds force schools to cut existing programming.
Budget for the true cost of staffing. At many schools, unfilled positions are directly attributable to insufficient budget. The mental health needs of our students are unmet due to underfunded positions, particularly at the elementary level. Librarians need to be permanent fixtures in every DCPS school. These staffing gaps are consistently attributed to DCPS not offering salaries that are competitive with what these skilled professionals can obtain with other District employers and neighboring school districts. Similarly, we have many paraprofessionals openings because the page grade is not commiserate with the demands of the position. Passion for serving the children only goes so far when you can make more stocking shelves at the grocery store.
Subsidize before and after-school care based on financial need regardless of DCPS school. DCPS has strong policies to ensure families at Title 1 schools have the before and after school care needs met. This support for working low-income families only at Title 1 schools is essential but insufficient. No DCPS student should be turned away from their school’s childcare provider due to inability to pay.
Be strategic about addressing learning loss and capital needs to avoid leaving federal funds unspent. In FY2024 our schools will face non-recurring significant needs to address pandemic learning loss and capital investment. The budgeting process should leverage federal funds to directly give each classroom teacher budget to obtain for learning materials for classroom-based recovery support. Likewise, the significant federal resources should be used to meet essential non-recurring facility needs identified during the pandemic. Across the city, schools have air quality concerns tied to acute HVAC challenges and safety issues tied to locks that tied to door lock issues In Ward 6 the capital needs also include the field at Eastern High School and the auditorium at Stuart Hobson.