School Transparency Bills: Discussion with Councilmember Allen – May 20, 2019

Summary of Discussion with Councilmember Allen regarding School Transparency Bills. Meeting was hosted by the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization on Tuesday, May 20, 2019.



Background behind the drafting of the Public School Transparency Amendment Act of 2019 (introduced by Charles Allen):

  • Public accountability and transparency are important
  • Meant to bring parity between DCPS and DCPCSB and require ALL LEAs (DCPS, KIPP, BASIS, etc) to be subject to OMA and FOIA
  • Follows recommendations and best practices established by National Alliance for Charter Schools vis a vis Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA)
  • Talked w/ charter school parents who are surprised FOIA and OMA do not apply to their school boards
  • School leaders looking for transparency and voice
  • In terms of administrative burden, when we look at other school systems, there do not seem to be a lot of FOIA requests
  • Hearings are split. June 26 is School Based Budgeting and Transparency Amendment Act of 2019,; Oct 2 for CM Allen’s Public School Transparency Amendment Act of 2019  expecting both conversations to be similar, including public testimony.


Resources needed to support LEAs in FOIA compliance:

  • CM Allen and colleagues want to think creatively around accountability and transparency and willing to support resources towards LEAs and DCPCSB in fulfilling FOIA requirements.
    • *EmpowerEd Research reflects that subjecting schools to FOIA is endorsed by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools and data show it hasn’t been cumbersome for schools in the least. There are no states that provides support funds to local LEA’s to comply with FOIA since it is usually such a small percentage of someone’s existing job. In EmpowerEd research calling charter schools across many states, they talked to no school who received more than five FOIA requests in a year.

Competing(?) Bills

  • While there are several school transparency bills on the table, it is possible that elements from each will come together in a synthesized version. It’s likely that the hearings on each bill will yield discussion across all of the bills.

Transparency gaps raised:

  • We’re not asking for any more than what public schools provide. Also, all contractors that do work for the city are subject to FOIA.
  • Families concerned about at risk dollars, transparency, is money there for my child being used for my child? If there’s an issue, will we be able to FOIA that? These are public dollars. If passed, will it be properly funded the right way to be implemented?
    • FOIA may not be able to help with this (or other issues) directly, but allows communities to be empowered to ask the questions and sunshine on govt.
  • Monument Academy, sexual assaults, weapons charges and allegations have yielded mixed responses vis a vis transparency. In situations where something wrong is at the school, what could bill do to ensure transparency? CM Allen: When Monument was coming in, there was pushback from neighbors, so stood up for Monument. Does having ability to have more information bring transparency? Some issues described come up against criminal justice system, which we also need to be sensitive to.
  • Is it possible to get a fiscal impact statement for transparency bill? Can we FOIA DCPS and ask how much spent on FOIA? CM Allen: Typically, fiscal impact statement not prepared in advance of a hearing. However, just because FOIA requires resources, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. From agency side, transparency is a cost of doing business.
  • Wish DCPS and DCPCSB get on the same page. It would be so much easier for parents. Parents have kids in both sectors, it would be easier to stay on top of everything happening. Education dollars are significant and affecting a lot of kids. If we take away labels, they are all DC kids. Where is curriculum? Where are the teachers?
  • There are less restrictions on public funds – none of the bills put the same restrictions on at-risk funds across DCPS and charters.
  • Teachers would like for more information sharing so they are more protected: care about how schools are spending money, compensation (no pay scale, equity concerns), how our schools are governed – unless at a school that prioritizes teacher and parent voice.

Possible solutions to DCPCSB FOIA compliance structure:

  • (DCOGC) Recommendation for DCPCSB to serve as FOIA facilitator for LEAs. The way this can work is that while FOIA doesn’t let you reach private entities, but if it’s required that LEAs turn over their information to the DCPCSB, if you don’t get the records; you want, you can appeal to the Office of Open Govt and compel the DCPCSB to turn over the documents. It makes sense for DCPCSB to develop disclosure policy.
  • The way it currently works, you are unable to FOIA the contractor and what power does DCPCSB have to get info from LEAs?
  • Answer is for DCPCSB to include in charter the provision that requires school to turn over records to the board.

Outreach around bills


CHPSPO Meeting Notes – February 17, 2015

February 17, 2015,  6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

  1. Extension of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Flexibility Waiver, OSSE

Learn more about the waiver here.

  • By end of March, DC needs to submit updated ESEA flexibility waiver
  • The substantive updates in this draft application include:
    • DC’s transition to the Next Generation Assessments (NGAs);
    • Increased flexibility to take high school level courses in middle school;
    • Updated language related to OSSE’s State System of Support (SSOS);
    • A requested pause in school classification during the assessment transition; and
    • A proposed pause in the use of state assessment growth data for teacher evaluations.
  • Opportunity to influence:
    • Role of Assessments, how much we are assessing students
    • Accountability plans
      • Types of resources schools should get vis a vis school rankings
    • Role of IMPACT
  • End of summer, vote for new accountability framework
  • OSSE committed to have meaningful public engagement
  • OSSE’s support of students w/ disabilities (who qualify for any sort of IEP)
  • OSSE will ask teachers/Principals these types of Qs
  • Grants avail through this process for research
  1. Upcoming Committee on Education Performance Oversight Hearings – Schedule here.

ACTION: Encourage families to attend working groups and hearings.

  • Questions to consider:
    • Too much testing??
    • How are teachers being evaluated? Are they being evaluated fairly? How do we get the best teachers in our schools and keep them?
    • How are students with disabilities being supported?
    • What was impact of the Proving What’s Possible/Student Satisfaction funding?
    • Is the at-risk funding truly following the at-risk students?
    • How is DCPS marketing its schools? How are the feeder patterns being promoted?  How are 4th graders being engaged at the middle schools?  Charter schools are out-marketing DCPS with fact sheets and open houses.
    • Have assessments been done on impact of ½ time foreign language teachers in elementary schools?
  1. Possible CHPSPO/ANCs meeting with Deputy Mayor for Education to discuss education issues from our community’s perspective.
  • Will reach out to ANCs to find dates. Sandra will contact 6b, Marty 6d, and Joe 6e.
  • Modernization of our middle schools is an issue to discuss with the DME.
  1. Libraries update by Peter Macpherson

Next CHPSPO Meeting:  March 17, 2015

Upcoming Events


February 21     10 to 11:30 am, Stuart Hobson Middle School, 410 E Street NE. 

Meeting hosted by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education on the role of testing in our schools, how to close achievement gaps, and how to improve the quality of instruction for all students. This conversation is designed to get the public’s input on important topics in advance of the State Board of Education voting in March on a waiver to the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly known as No Child Left Behind.

March 7           SWS Auction

March 13         Cluster Rocks Auction

March 14         Alchemy of Great Taste, Tyler Fundraiser

March 28         Maury at the Market

April 11           Anacostia Fish Bike Festival

May 6              Bike to School Day

May 17            Capitol Hill Classic

Upcoming Committee on Education Performance Oversight Hearings on FY 14/15

Wednesday, 2/18/2015, 10:00am, Room 123

  • Public Charter School Board
  • Bullying Prevention Taskforce
  • Healthy Youth and Schools Commission

Thursday, 2/19/2015, 10:00am, Room 412

  • District of Columbia Public Schools (Public Witnesses Only)

Tuesday, 2/24/2015, 10:00am, Room 500

  • District of Columbia Public Schools (Government Witnesses Only)

Thursday, 3/5/2015, 10:00am, Room 412

  • Office of the State Superintendent of Education
  • State Board of Education

Tuesday, 3/10/2015, 10:00am, Room 123

  • Deputy Mayor for Education
  • District of Columbia Public Library System

Persons wishing to testify about the performance of any of the foregoing agencies may contact: Christina Henderson,, or by calling 202-724-8191.

DC Council Committee on Education – Oversight Hearings on FY 2014-15


Oversight Hearings on Fiscal Year 2014-2015

The Committee on Education ( will conduct Performance Oversight Hearings; the following agencies will testify:

Wednesday, 2/18/2015, 10:00am, Room 123

  • Public Charter School Board
  • Bullying Prevention Taskforce
  • Healthy Youth and Schools Commission

Thursday, 2/19/2015, 10:00am, Room 412

  • District of Columbia Public Schools (Public Witnesses Only)

Tuesday, 2/24/2015, 10:00am, Room 500

  • District of Columbia Public Schools (Government Witnesses Only)

Thursday, 3/5/2015, 10:00am, Room 412

  • Office of the State Superintendent of Education
  • State Board of Education

Tuesday, 3/10/2015, 10:00am, Room 123

  • Deputy Mayor for Education
  • District of Columbia Public Library System

Persons wishing to testify about the performance of any of the foregoing agencies may contact: Christina Henderson,, or by calling 202-724-8191.


Thank you to CM Charles Allen’s staff for helping us to keep track of these.

Testimony For Apr 17, 2013 Council Hearing On School Budget By Committee On Education – By Valerie Jablow

I am Valerie Jablow, and my two children attend the Capitol Hill Cluster School, which has 1,200 students from preK through grade 8.

Like many in DC, our school’s budget has been cut, resulting in numerous teacher layoffs.

Our PTA now projects spending a majority of its money this coming school year to pay for needed staff.

Our layoffs include all foreign language staff at our middle school, Stuart-Hobson, as well as Stuart-Hobson’s technology teacher, leaving a multimillion dollar computer lab unstaffed. At the new staffing level, there will be 35 kids per class.

Our layoffs also mean that our middle school will not have a full-time librarian, and our elementary no guidance counselor or reading resource teachers. All are basic to a healthy school.

All this because of 30 double-enrolled students at Stuart-Hobson! Let me explain.

In summer 2012, our principal turned waitlisted students away from Stuart-Hobson. Our historically fully enrolled school otherwise would have been overenrolled—and DCPS told her that was bad.

But in the first week of school this year, parents of 30 kids pulled them out of Stuart-Hobson to attend charters. All were double-enrolled. And so our numbers at Stuart-Hobson dropped below DCPS’s new, arbitrary 400 student level, causing especially steep budget cuts for 2014. Adding foreign language teachers at the elementary level, a new DCPS mandate, means that keeping the per pupil funding to a fixed number, also a DCPS mandate, results in cuts everywhere.

At the same time that our school is being defunded, DCPS is expanding a school just blocks from Stuart-Hobson into middle school grades and creating another new public school another few blocks away—all the while at least nine new charter schools are applying to open in DC AND our mayor says that school enrollment is projected to decline!

The take-home message: absolutely no support for existing DCPS schools. It’s the Hunger Games, public school edition, ensuring a slow, resource-starved death for most schools. Those of us at the Cluster know this all too well: we have been fighting for almost three years now just to get full funding for Stuart-Hobson’s renovation–its ONLY renovation in 86 years.

To address our cuts, our staff is working extra hours to ensure that all parents enroll their children so we might gain one lost teacher. Our principal has also marketed our school to everyone with a child in neighborhood schools. And since the budget came out, our staff have scrambled to figure out how to offer the same quality education with fewer resources.

In the meantime, our kids need to learn–but how can anyone teach when they are trying just to ensure their school will survive?

Our city has created these problems and all DCPS kids are paying for them! Double enrollments can be stopped tomorrow. New schools do NOT have to be created. And school budgets should reflect the best use of existing resources, not saying that each child gets X dollars for funding, end of story—and by the way, take an extra budget hit if you don’t meet a new, arbitrary enrollment cutoff, when there are no common enrollment dates and processes for all schools receiving public money!

All of this is in YOUR power to fix. Tomorrow, if you want. Our school cannot do this alone, and expecting parents or PTAs or heroic staff or prayer to make up the difference is cynical and not respectful of the idea of public education. Our city must invest in our existing public schools—otherwise, what is the point of public education? Thank you.

Testimony For Apr 17, 2013 Council Hearing On School Budget By Committee On Education – By Martin Welles

DC Council Hearing on DCPS SY14 Budget

April 17, 2013

Testimony by Martin Welles

Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  I am testifying on behalf of the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization about concerns we have with the DCPS SY14 budget.  Our testimony today focuses on 1) the impact most schools will see next year because of lower budgets, 2) specific concerns with librarians, foreign language instructors, and mental health professionals, and 3) suggested solutions for ensuring the DCPS budget includes a plan for stabilizing and strengthening schools.

Many schools across the city are projected to see fewer dollars in their school budgets next year and the reason stems from two factors:  1) projected drops in enrollment, and 2) raising the size of small schools from 300 to 400 students.  The DC Fiscal Policy Institute’s analysis of the initial local school allocations found $8 million less will be going to the individual schools in SY14 in spite of a 2% increase in the per student funding formula.  Less funding is going to the schools because there is a projected enrollment drop of about 1,100 students.  In addition, many schools will see their budgets decreased because DCPS arbitrarily raised the size of what is considered a small school from 300 to 400 students, and important positions like librarians, art teachers, social workers and psychologists are only budgeted for ½ time positions at small schools. It is important to note that in some cases schools with under 400 students are fully enrolled and some have waitlists, but are being hurt in the budget process because they have a building capacity for fewer than 400 students.

The impact of these lower budgets will be felt. Many schools will have larger class sizes and fewer staff in the school.  Libraries often won’t be staffed.  Middle school students won’t have foreign language instruction.  Evaluations and meetings requiring the presence of mental health professionals will be delayed.  Principals and teachers will be asked to do more with less.  You will also hear concerns from others today about the growing number of schools that do not qualify for DCPS aftercare, and the impact this has on working families.

The library programs will be impacted.  Based on the submitted budgets, of the thirteen elementary and middle schools in Ward 6, only five will have full-time librarians, all three middle schools will only have ½ time librarians, two elementary schools will have ½ time librarians, and three will have full-time library aides.  The lack of library media specialists will result in students being short-changed by not having access to quality library programming, and missed opportunities for collaboration between librarians and classroom teachers.

While DCPS is putting a new emphasis on foreign language instruction, we feel the emphasis is misguided.  Many elementary schools will be hiring foreign language instructors and the foreign language will be taught as a specials subject where students will get instruction 45 minutes a week or less.  Yet, a middle school like Stuart Hobson will no longer be able to offer foreign language as it has in previous years because its enrollment is projected to fall below 400 students, and the school is being reclassified as a “small school.”  (Historically, this school has always had enrollment between 350 and 450 students.)  At this school, where Spanish has been offered for many years as a core subject, the PTA finds itself having to step in to offer a before and/or after-school Spanish class for a portion of the school’s students.  As you may know, in order to be accepted into competitive high schools in DC, middle school students have to fulfill the foreign language requirement.

These school-level cuts are shortsighted because they will exacerbate the enrollment problems by driving away frustrated parents and lead to further destabilization of our neighborhood schools.  One parent told us the decision not to offer foreign language at Stuart Hobson was a “deal breaker” for her family, and they will likely choose another school to send their children. When parents choose another school, they will likely choose a charter school that offers foreign language instruction. When families cannot depend on programs being offered from one year to the next they start to look elsewhere.  This is destabilizing to our neighborhood schools because it further decreases enrollment  and thus more schools will fall under the 400 student threshold to qualify for certain budget items, such as full-time librarian and foreign language instruction.  It turns into a “vicious cycle” of perpetuating low enrollment.

So what should be done?  If the DC public schools are to be successful in this time of school choice and competition, we believe investments must be made to provide the types of programming that will retain and attract families.  We strongly recommend:

  • the recommendations of the DCPS Library Task Force be followed in regards to library staffing, and that DCPS fund full-time librarian positions regardless of school size.
  • DCPS rethink the staffing planned for foreign language instruction in the coming year.  We believe there should be a greater emphasis on ensuring foreign language is provided equitably across all of the city’s middle schools, and that the educational value of providing very limited foreign language instruction at the elementary schools be reexamined.  At the elementary level, foreign language instruction can only be viewed as ineffective, unless it is taught more than once a week.
  • targeted investments be made in the local schools where DCPS sees schools losing quality programming they have previously offered due to the SY14 budget cuts.

Testimony For Apr 17, 2013 Council Hearing On School Budget By Committee On Education – By Sandra Moscoso

DC Council Hearing on Education Budget

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Testimony by Sandra Moscoso, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Parent

Council Members Catania, Grosso, Wells, Alexander and Barry, thank you for the opportunity to testify. As a parent in DC Public Schools, I continue to value the work of this committee and would like to commend what I perceive to be a push for transparency by the council. I believe this is in line with what families are looking for, in order to make decisions about and advocate for schools, transportation, safety, and beyond.

I recently described my community’s engagement with the city and schools to a group of international visitors. I talked about how in DCPS, parents are invited to be part of the budget process; that we review how the school is staffed, look at allocation for non staff costs like toilet paper and do our best to compare our school’s staffing to other schools and across years. As I described this, it occured to me how odd this might seem and the visitors confirmed that it’s not something they would expect from their own schools or governments.

While I am not sure that this type of city-with-citizen engagement is intentional or deliberate, it’s clear to me that it is crucial to the success of our schools. Every successful school I have seen in action is a product of a strong partnership between its families and educators.

Families build gardens, design playgrounds, develop enrichment opportunities, host staff appreciation weeks, organize community discussions, support school communications, work to improve our children’s lunches, write grants and raise funds. In turn, we entrust our children’s and their peers’ academic (and to some degree social) development to educators. We expect that the quality of the academic programming in our schools will not only be stable from year to year, but will hopefully improve and be adequately resourced.

Unfortunately, over the past years, it seems that the support for schools seems to be slipping. Schools are being asked to meet enrollment minimums in order to get resources like librarians, music, language and art teachers. Of course, in order to attract families, schools need to offer resources. What is disturbing, is that schools that have worked hard to meet these enrollment requirements are now losing existing resources when the enrollment bar is raised. Without any warning, as there was no transparency around the process by which these enrollment decisions were made.

I do not know whether this situation is coming from overall school budget needing to be supplemented by the city, or whether DCPS is not distributing resources in a way that best supports schools. I do not necessarily want to be in the position of having to figure this out, but here I am, wondering why my children’s school and my neighbors’ schools, cannot get a full-time librarian and are at risk of losing our language (and other) teachers. I am also wondering how exactly the funds that were budgeted for my children’s (and other) schools were spent? We (parents and school educators) did our part in making our schools a place where children learn, are enriched and made sure other parents know it, so more families want to enroll. I am wondering whether the city and DCPS are doing their part?

When it comes to resourcing our schools, let me be clear. I send my children to their school because I believe in their teachers, their peers, and the staff who supports them in that building. I do not send them to their school because of DCPS’ teacher evaluation system, or because of the opportunity for my children to test out another version of the DC CAS or Paced Interim Assessment.

I value the collection of data and measurement of results, but it must be purposeful. In the case of my children’s education, when it comes to data, I wonder why I hear so much about testing and teacher evaluation, but not so much about how my children’s school is enriched? I also wonder about whether the data collected about my children’s school and its performance is well-rounded. Finally, given this environment of choice, I wonder why ALL of this data, given its importance, is not yet available for ALL schools (DCPS and charter) in a central place, like the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). As families, we don’t really have a choice if we don’t have access to information to make that choice. I see good things happening in way of making this data available by OSSE and hope that the Council and the schools will continue to support this level of transparency and will apply it to school factors beyond standardized testing.

In closing, my requests and expectations of DCPS and the city are simple and hopefully sensible. Families are much more interested in what is happening at their children’s school than in the school system. Resource the schools properly, so they are attractive to families. Be transparent about how resources are budgeted, allocated and spent. Given that we are told we have choices, make all (non-sensitive) data publicly available for all schools.

Thank you for your audience.

Testimony For April 17, 2013 Council Hearing On School Budget By Committee On Education – By Laura Marks

Testimony of

Laura Hansen Marks

634 D Street, NE

Washington, DC  20002

Council of the District of Columbia: Committee On Education

Councilmember David Catania, Chairman 

Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Hearing

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Room 500, John A. Wilson Building

My name is Laura Marks.  I am a resident of Ward 6 and have lived in the District for seventeen years.  I am a parent of two young children, one in Kindergarten and one in second grade at Watkins Elementary, a 527-student school serving grades 1 through 5 as part of the Capitol Hill Cluster School.  I am also a neighbor of Stuart-Hobson Middle School, the third campus of the Capitol Hill Cluster School.

My husband and I both attended public schools for the entirety of our K-12 educations, and we very much want the same for our children.  This is our fifth year as DCPS parents and we would be thrilled to see both our children continue on to graduate from an excellent DC public high school after many great years in DCPS elementary and middle schools.

That vision, however, is in grave jeopardy for our family and for many others.  We are greatly concerned by what feels like a concerted effort to push families like ours from DC Public Schools.  The budget DCPS has proposed for Watkins ES and Stuart-Hobson MS will do just that unless changes are made to recover the enormous cuts being considered for both programs.

Watkins Elementary School – Capitol Hill Cluster School

Watkins ES is facing the loss of four full-time staff positions next year – two reading resource teachers, one math resource teacher, and our guidance counselor.  These positions play crucial roles within our school supporting differentiated instruction, a positive school culture, and providing the hands-on facilitation of essential daily activities like lunch and recess.

Without resource teachers to remediate students working below grade level, I fail to see how our exceptional classroom teachers will be able to continue their very successful differentiated learning groups, a rare opportunity to offer kids working above grade level more challenging material.  Watkins’ differentiated instruction efforts are exactly the kind of programming that will keep families like mine in DCPS and instead of seeing them praised and replicated, I see them being imperiled with no discussion and little explanation.

These cuts will leave Watkins so short-staffed they will no longer be able to supervise grade-level lunch periods, necessitating multi-grade combined lunch periods with over 200 children trying to access a single point of sale in the cafeteria during one lunch period.  Overcrowded seating, excessive noise levels, and inadequate time for eating are just a few of the consequences of these proposed staff cuts at Watkins.  I am left to wonder whether these conditions place DCPS in violation of the terms of the DC Healthy Schools Act and the Federal School Lunch Program.

I can guarantee you that families will leave Watkins based on the dramatic quality of life impact on their children of having to navigate a lunchroom so chaotic, rushed, loud, and unpleasant that kids dread their time there.  Combined with similarly chaotic and crowded recess conditions, you have a sure recipe for miserable kids and equally dissatisfied parents.

Stuart-Hobson Middle School – Capitol Hill Cluster School

As alarming as the cuts at Watkins ES are, the proposed cuts at Stuart-Hobson are staggering.  The loss of the entire world language program there has been described by many Cluster parents as a “deal killer.”  For students looking ahead to application-only high schools, very few parents would send their child to a middle school with no core language instruction.  Again, if you’re looking to drive parents to charters en masse, look no further than slashing world language and technology instruction at the middle school level.

Further, Stuart-Hobson modernization should be fully funded and completed to make that building function as designed and in service to the Museum & Arts Integration Program for which it was planned.  Leaving this effort half finished is unacceptable.  The 1200 students of the Capitol Hill Cluster School deserve a completed, modernized middle school building with arts, athletics, and classroom spaces adequate to the school’s needs and appropriate to the mission of the museum curriculum.

DCPS Parent Gag Order   

Finally, I would be remiss not to raise the issue of what can only be described as a “gag order” on parents by DCPS’ top leadership.  Parents at a number of Capitol Hill DCPS schools have reported that their principals’ jobs have been threatened for failing to squelch parent advocacy on behalf of their schools.  The mere idea that our school system’s leadership would entertain that notion is incredibly insulting, wrong-headed, and anti-democratic in the extreme.

I am proud of the parents here today, taking time out of their busy lives to speak out for not just their own children but all of DC’s children.  I am proud of the hardworking principals across DC whose leadership and courage are so key to our schools’ progress.  I am, however, appalled by the idea that parents exercising their right to free speech on behalf of their children’s school would be so alarming to DCPS that they would resort to such inexcusable, authoritarian tactics.

Over the past few years, DCPS has hired some of the best principals in the country.  We have some amazing talent leading our schools, men and women with incredibly hard jobs who are achieving some spectacular gains.  To threaten them simply for the sake of political expediency is truly reprehensible.  To have so little respect for free speech and the democratic process is deeply offensive.  To so publicly demonstrate such a low opinion of parents is, unfortunately, revealing.

Shame on DCPS and shame on all of us who fail to hold them accountable.