Testimony by Sandra Moscoso
Education Committee DCPS Budget Oversight Hearing,
April 14, 2016
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.
I am a member of the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization (CHPSPO), a DCPS Parent at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan and a DC Charter School Parent at BASISDC PCS.
My ask of Council given your influence over education budget are:
- Be transparent in how decisions are made.
- Be consistent in your support of and honor commitments made to student, families, and educators.
- Get the most out of limited funds by supporting TRUE coordination between DC public and DC charter schools.
On transparency, while city education agencies have made great strides over the past few years around making data and policy more accessible, there is still a long way to go for the lay (or even savvy) parent to understand the rationale behind how decisions are made.
This is due to the lack of transparency and lack of consistency around how funding decisions are made. Capital funding decisions in particular.
In the absence of transparent inputs, processes, and evidence-based decision-making, there is plenty of room for lack of trust. Sadly, this is where many (if not most) of parents like me sit today.
On consistency, honor commitments our students depend on.
I think back to my daughter’s school, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan. On April 6, 2011, I sat in the school’s multi-purpose room, along with about 100 parents, teachers, and students, as we learned about our school’s future home. The then Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization of DC Public Schools delivered a presentation of plans for the building we would be moving into August of that year. Those plans included basic repairs to get the school ready to safely accommodate our students, with plans for Phase 1 modernization in 2014.
While disappointed that we would wait 3 years for modernization, we trusted in the system and patiently waited our turn. 2014 has come and gone, and now our students (most of who will have aged out) will have to wait over a decade for a modernized building?
We ask a lot of our students (and their teachers). We ask them to sit through long days, 10-20 minutes to scarf down their lunch, and dwindling recess. We ask them to tolerate hours of skill and drill, and assessments every 6 weeks (if not more). We ask them to adjust to bouncing around schools, yo-yo access to resources, and initiatives du jour. On top of this, our students live with the pressure that if they do not perform well on standardized tests, their teachers or principal could get fired. This is the type of responsibility we put onto 3rd graders, 9 year olds.
In turn, can we really not accept the responsibility for ensuring their learning environments are adequate? We owe them modern, beautiful spaces to learn.
Finally, I recognize that resources are limited and funding is scarce. I believe that funding two public education sectors without strategic coordination between them exacerbates the issue of scarcity.
I have children in both sectors, and the problems I witness in both are quite similar. Aging facilities in need up updating, scarce resources for programming. I cannot understand how it is possible that the city is willing to open a school in the same neighborhood where a similar, up and coming but highly under-resourced school exists. I have seen first-hand how this reckless practice has hurt my children’s DCPS and Charter middle schools, as well as all of my neighborhood middle schools like Eliot-Hine, Stuart-Hobson, and Jefferson Academy.
Fund the schools here today adequately (DCPS and Charter) give them a chance to succeed, and put a hold on opening new ones or we’ll never find our way out of this cycle.
Ensuring there is true coordination between the two sectors should be at the top of EVERY councilmember’s agenda. Doing this well will mean better use of resources, and equity around how those resources are distributed.
Back to trust, if we cannot count on our elected officials to find a way to get the most out of our education sectors, I wonder whether we have the right officials in place. I am very sorry to put it this way, but the argument of “Congress gonna Congress” cannot possibly be tolerated when it comes to addressing our city’s education challenges.
I have faith in this Council, I hope that I can continue to say you have my trust.
Thank you for your time and attention.