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Matt Frumin Testimony – DC Council – Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020

Testimony of Matthew Frumin on the

Comprehensive Plan Education Facilities Element

Thank you for this opportunity to testify on this important subject.

My focus today is not on the land use issues will be the focus of much of the testimony, but on the Education Facilities Element that is intended to offer a vision for the education infrastructure in our city.  Settling a clear vision is critical to our success in this all important area on which so much of the city’s growth and future depend. 

There is much to commend in the proposed Education Facilities Element, but also important things that can and should be fixed by the Council in its review process so that as enacted it: 

  • Unequivocally establishes that the key priority in the next decade is to ensure an excellent matter-of-right path from PK through high school in every community.  Achieving that goal lay at the heart of ensuring equity and fairness and supporting the long-term growth of the city.  The goal is almost universally endorsed, but rarely followed through on.  The current draft endorses the goal, but then, as is all too common, significantly undermines it with specific proposed policies. 
  • Calls for rational correlation of the addition of new school capacity and location of such capacity to accommodate realistic expectations of need, recognizing that achieving rationality will require coordinated planning between the sectors.  The current draft implies a significant need for new capacity based on projected enrollments based on estimates formulated years ago.  Even before COVID, the actual increases in enrollment lagged the projections. Meanwhile, in many parts of the city, we already have significant overcapacity.  That excess capacity drives up costs and dilutes the dollars available to directly serve students sending them to administrators and building owners.  Fiscal responsibility requires a rational approach to new school capacity that has been sorely lacking.  
  • Rejects the encouragement of co-location of charter schools inside DCPS buildings.  Such an approach would make a mockery of the core goal of delivering an excellent matter-of-right system in every community and as has been seen in many jurisdictions invites operational challenges and with dual administrations in one building maximizes administrative cost as opposed to investing in direct service to students.  The suggestion in the draft to encourage such co-locations is drawn from the proposed 2018 Master Facilities Plan that the Council declined to embrace.  The Council should not embrace it here through the back door. 
  • Reflects the expectation that the city will significantly invest in its low enrolled matter-of-right schools including through completing the full modernization of all DCPS schools by a date certain (the vast majority of which that remain to be completed and are not yet slated for full modernization are east of the river) in an effort to attract students, achieve long-term economies of scale. Invest in the schools we have before further feeding excess capacity.

For years, even as there have been loud calls and strong support to ensure great matter-of-right schools offering families predictability from PK through high school n every community in the city so that families need not be at the mercy of a lottery, every community enjoys the social capital of great schools and District taxpayers are not burdened with per student costs significantly inflated by excess capacity, we have effectively drifted without a vision, some times wrongly believing our power to shape this critical local service was more limited than it actually is. 

The Comp Plan Education Facilities Element offers an opportunity to stake out a sensible vision. The Council should work with the draft proposed by the Office of Planning, making relatively modest revisions, to create such a vision and establish a broad roadmap for success in this all important area on which so much of the city’s growth and future will turn. 

We stand ready to support you in that effort and would happily share specific, redlined proposed revisions to the current draft. 

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. 

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Cathy Reilly Testimony – DC Council – Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020

Testimony on the Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020 – November 13, 2020

My name is Cathy Reilly, the executive director of the Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators, a member of C4DC. I am also a part of the Ward 4 Ed Alliance. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on the District’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020, Educational Facilities Plan Amendment. 

DCPS by right public schools offer environmental and other social benefits for green space, storm water management, recreation, social cohesion, and even political franchise.  This comp plan can acknowledge that publicly owned, governed and managed properties bring the full education, social, recreation, and environmental benefits to communities.  It can establish that the key priority in the next decade is to ensure an excellent matter-of-right path from PK through high school in every community as it notes in 1200.3.

The plan states in section 1202.1 that DCPS is responsible for educating Washington DC’s children and provides a school of right for every compulsory age child.  The Comp plan can protect and provide a roadmap for DCPS to be able to fulfil that responsibility. 

In order to Strongly support the goal of making neighborhood schools an appealing school of choice, where students’ academic and personal achievements are nurtured, so that children do not have to travel long distances across the District “ as noted in 1204.10: 

The plan:

  • Should recommend maintaining public inventory with shorter leases in order to retain the ability to expand if necessary to fulfill the DCPS core responsibility.  DCPS has transferred 39 buildings to private ownership or long term rental agreements with charter schools. There is excess capacity of at least 22,000 seats across both sectors.  The City can no longer afford to expand specialty and charter enrollments creating greater inefficiency in its land use and in budget priorities. We can prioritize providing program and fill our existing seats.  (omit 1208.15)
  • Should limit co-location to within a sector. The recommendation for charter schools to co-locate in DCPS buildings essentially caps and limits DCPS enrollment making it more difficult to meet its responsibility .  (amend 1203.4, 1203.9)
  • Should prioritize and protect the green space, playgrounds and athletic facilities our publicly owned schools have for posterity. (additional language)
  • Should complete the modernization of DCPS schools as part of the city’s infrastructure by a date certain.  (additional language in 1204.2)

Much of the data and information are out of date and the Council will need to figure out how to address this. A major inaccuracy is that the DME did not do an educational facilities master plan–just study–and the “plan elements” of the study were rejected by the Council. The repeated praise for and inclusion of this 2018MFP plan should be reconsidered and amended or omitted. 

Thank you and I look forward to working with you on this going forward. 

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W6PSPO Meeting Notes – April 9, 2019

April 9, 2019
Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, 215 G St. NE, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

  1. Theodora Brown & Raenelle Zapata (Ward 5 Council on Education) and Eboni-Rose Thompson (Ward 7 Education Council) – Ward Council priorities and how we can better support each other

Ward 5

  • Founded in 1995. Traditionally, conducted an annual survey of all schools – talk to staff (secretaries/custodial staff, etc).
  • Under Rhee, all Ward 5 middle schools closed, and became education campus models. Middle school students were not accommodated; no pre algebra, no world language, and therefore, Ward 5 students could not apply to School Without Walls or Banneker. Ward 5 Education Council fought to reopen middle schools, and DCPS opened Brookland Middle School and McKinley Tech Middle School
  • Schools in Ward 5 still struggle from underfunding. None of schools in Ward 5 have full-time librarians.
  • Today: Priority is to revitalize Ward 5 Council on Education
    Paul Kihn joined in March; inviting CM Allen & Grosso to talk about Transparency legislation

Ward 7

  • Budget
  • Reasons behind budget shortfall by ~$15M
    • New costs like security
    • Extended year ending
    • Enrollment projections are unclear and inaccurate
    • Over-saturation of schools; capacity exceeds demand and students are scattered
    • Combination of above, seeing hits beyond 5% yet schools are losing stabilization funds
    • Budgets came out late; after oversight hearings, so schools did not show up during hearings to address budget cuts; lag in information
    • Priority – stop the bleeding; Ward 7 only second to Ward 8 vis-a-vis school age kids, but not many go to in-boundary schools.
  • Action
    • Joining ANC meetings to discuss a resolution to support additional funding for the DCPS schools in Ward 7
    • Ensure every ANC passes resolution
    • Eboni-Rose to email resolution to Suzanne
    • Budget advocacy cheat sheet for individuals. Not all schools have PTAs; not every issue specific to one school – helpful to speak with a collective voice
    • Working to come up w/ a # around funding gap
  • Obstacles
    • Ward 7 has STEM and language immersion schools, but there is little support for the programs.
    • Feeders are broken in Ward 7, e.g., H.D. Woodson High Schools’ only feeder school is Kelly-Miller Middle School which also feeds into Eastern High School.
    • Transportation is another important issue, especially for Kelly-Miller. Transportation was raised at the Strategic Planning Cabinet meeting.
    • Parents invest, but DCPS is not matching the investment; parents are willing to be partners, but not risk it all without investment by DCPS
  • Feeder Strategy
  • People are less concerned about the type of programming at a school, and more concerned about what the feeder pathway is. Looking to DCPS to support vertical articulation (path for language, path for STEM, etc)
  • Think more creatively about Sousa? Are there cluster situations to be leveraged?
  • Programming strategies? Every conversation with DCPS = how to better invest in schools in ways that translate to families.
  • Address Woodson’s lack of adequate feeder pattern – Kelly Miller has rights to Eastern and Woodson
  • CM Trayon White drafted resolution for Ward 8 schools that had support from every at large CM

2. C4DC Budget Proposal (see DC Fiscal Policy Institute budget analysis and this WUSA9 report and the C4DC budget tool)

Proposal

  • Important for communities to have access to by right schools w/ predictability through high school
  • Target increased funding to DCPS schools hardest hit in Wards 7 & 8. The students who need the most are getting the least in this year’s budget.
  • Stable feeder patterns are needed across city; how to support feeder systems across the city and how do we ensure the schools fill the needs of kids in each community
  • A stimulus investment is needed for the under enrolled feeder patterns to attract students to them, and over time it will cost the city less due to factors such as more efficient use of school buildings.
  • Timeline: currently gathering feedback. Education Committee report May 2, this is where Ed committee will show how it intends to increase funding for schools
  • Discussion
    • Q: Will focus include guidance around where DCPS should put the money? A: We’ll give them some direction. It will be critical to give direction in order to defend the amount we’re asking for.
    • We will need to make the case for why the Council should fund DCPS and not the charters with additional funds. There is justification in the law, in the high gain of DCPS students throughout the year. Ward 7 is asking for the at risk funds to be restored. This may be the largest hurdle.
    • Part of the pitch is we will not accept any more closings; this council cannot be the one that oversees the death of DCPS
    • Believe CM Mendelson will add $ to schools. The question is how much? Acute need is in DCPS.
    • Justifying cuts w/ enrollment, which are guesses; w/out investment in schools, enrollment will drop.
    • Enrollment reserves are not being used
  • How can we support:
    • Testify at Council meetings; help our councilmembers DME Hearing April 25
    • WTU Rally on April 25 – 4:30pm

3. DME Hearing April 25 & W6PSPO Testimonies

4. Bike-to-School Day is May 8, 7:30-8:15 AM @ Lincoln Park. All schools are invited.

Next CHPSPO Meeting: May 21, 2019

Upcoming Events

  • April 20 – National Park Service Easter Egg Hunt at Frederick Douglass House (10am-1pm)
  • April 25 Deputy Mayor for Education Budget Oversight Hearing
  • May 8 Bike-to-School Day, Lincoln Park

Visit W6PSPO on the web at http://chpspo.org