Ward 2 Education Council Testimony – COW Hearing: DCPS Initial School Level Budgets FY22 – April 2, 2021

Chairman and Councilmembers. I am Sandra Moscoso, treasurer of the Ward 2 Education Council and a parent of two students at School Without Walls High School. 

I am here to ask that you support funding our schools so they are able to maintain current staffing levels and to also invest more in schools hardest hit by the current crisis. I will share with you what school communities are telling us about how DCPS’ inadequate budgets will hurt their ability to serve students.

DC Public Schools is forcing schools to cut staff for the 2021-22 school year, the first year of recovery after more than one year of disrupted learning due to Covid-19. Education councils in Wards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, and ANC Commissioners and leaders initiated a petition to demand that the city maintain current staffing levels for the upcoming school year. We agreed that DC must also invest more in schools in under-resourced areas to address the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic. 

In many cases, the school-level staffing cuts cannot be explained by lower student enrollments. Schools face staff cuts for a number of reasons each year, including increases in costs.

These cuts are happening while DCPS is expecting to receive from the American Rescue Plan around $275 million (ESSER II + ESSER III) in stimulus funding for school recovery. These federal funds can be used for “activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services … and to employ existing staff.” While DCPS could use these federal funds for any purpose through September 2024 – including to fund staff and develop a multi-year staffing plan – DCPS instead chooses not to do so. 

The city must do better to meet the needs of all students, given that staffing cuts will be felt most heavily in schools that are already under-resourced. In addition, lack of supplemental investment in education at this critical time will exacerbate the unacceptably large gaps in learning by student race and income. We ask that you fund DCPS schools for recovery:

  • Schools need more staff, not less, to address learning needs. Schools with fewer staff cannot provide the same level of targeted supports when the academic needs of some students have increased due to the pandemic. Funds promised for summer and afterschool programs must not be considered replacements for instructional staff during regular school days.
  • Schools will need more staff to adhere to health and safety guidelines, to offer in-person learning to more students, while continuing to provide virtual options. Fewer school staff puts many schools at risk of not having adequate resources to serve all students and re-open safely.
  • Schools need additional support to address whole-child needs. Mental health support for students continues to be the most highly demanded request in the city, and the pandemic has exacerbated this need. It is particularly short-sighted and imprudent to cut existing school staff before we have a solid handle on all the mental health, socio-emotional, and academic needs that students will face as in-person learning increases and virtual learning continues to evolve.

In the citywide petition, we asked school communities to share the impact of these cuts to their schools. Here’s what we have heard from Ward 2:

  • Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which for nearly 50 years has served as the sole public arts high school in DCPS, serving a majority African American student body from all 8 wards, reports a serious under-allocation, and seeks pay parity for its teachers. The 2020-21 DCPS budget allocation for Ellington pays for just 31 of the 58 full-time, dual curriculum, faculty positions. Ellington teachers earn an average of $25,000 less than their DCPS counterparts. The school seeks an increase, commensurate with what they would rightfully expect to receive today. Doing so gives Ellington teachers the equitable salary and benefits package they are entitled to, and ensures teacher retention. (See DESA Fact Sheets)
  • Ross Elementary, a school with a 20% English Language Learner population with a mile long waitlist, is being forced to cut all their art, music, world languages and library positions to part-time.
  • At School Without Walls High School, despite DCPS forecasting zero loss in enrollment, DC’s highest-performing, nationally-ranked magnet school serving families in all eight wards must cut a teacher and educational supplies across science, art, and music. This on the heels of a year where the school sacrificed a librarian, and two other staff. For schools like Walls, DCPS should at least do no harm — maintain the status quo to serve the same number of students as in the prior year. (see LSAT and HSA letters to Chancellor)
  • Thomson Elementary, a Title 1 school with a 50 percent Hispanic population has suffered greatly due to the pandemic (i.e. food insecurity, difficulties with distance learning, and unemployment. Note the at-risk population at Thomson is much higher than reported. Many undocumented families do not register for benefits that form the basis of funding formulas). The school, which counts teacher stability and retention as a strength, is losing an ELL teacher and a first grade teacher. Cutting one of Thomson’s classroom teachers will have ripple effects for years. Thomson would like to see the budget pre-pandemic numbers reinstated for the next school year.  

I hope you can see a pattern of annual cuts and defunding of our schools. A pattern that does not change even in the face of a pandemic.

DCPS has not yet released a comprehensive plan for recovery, so we took a look at what experts outside of DCPS are saying. In one way or another, all of these recommendations focus on investing in schools, in school-day activities, in strengthening relationships between home and school. With federal funds that can be used through September 2024, we have an opportunity to do this. All we need is the political will.

We thank Councilmember Pinto for including restoring cut teacher positions, critical mental health support and funding healthy buildings in her budget priorities. While I am here speaking on behalf of Ward 2 schools, it’s important to note that families across all wards enroll their children here. Of the 876+ individuals who signed the petition so far, 80% of signatories linked to Ward 2 schools, identified their home ward as other than Ward 2. 

We hope to see support for keeping our schools whole across every Councilmember’s priorities.

In the Fall, schools should open their doors (or e-classrooms, depending on health and safety) with robust and familiar instructional staff, equitable access to technology, opportunities for students to pursue interests and build relationships, and most importantly – mental health resources to help students cope with current and ongoing stressors. 

Thank you for this opportunity to testify.

Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization Testimony – COW Hearing: DCPS Initial School Level Budgets FY22 – April 2, 2021

I am Valerie Jablow, Ward 6 resident and DCPS parent testifying on behalf of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization.

As you know, DCPS is forcing schools to cut staff and make impossible budget choices for the 21-22 school year, the first year of recovery after more than one year of disrupted learning due to covid.

Budget analyst Mary Levy analyzed DCPS’s initial budget allocations and found 51% of schools have lost staff positions for the 21-22 school year relative to pre-pandemic budgets. These staffing cuts cannot be explained by lower student enrollments. Even schools without budget cuts are losing staff because of increases in costs.

Local School Advisory Teams (LSATs) have been asked to choose between academic and emotional support in a time of increased, not decreased, needs.

Here’s what this looks like in a few Ward 6 DCPS schools:

Eastern High (95% Black, 67% at risk) is losing a social worker and at least one teacher

Seaton Elementary (36% Black, 38% Latino) is losing a science teacher and an ESL teacher, while the school’s immigrant population constitutes more than >60% of its student body and its English language learners 38%

Ludlow-Taylor Elementary (41% Black) is reducing its full-time librarian and science teacher to part-time

Miner Elementary (79% Black, 61% at risk) is experiencing budget cuts, including losing its librarian.

Walker-Jones Education Campus (92% Black, 81% at risk) is continuing its historical understaffing, while losing its librarian

Amidon-Bowen Elementary (79% Black, 65% at risk) is losing two full-time positions. 

To see the ramifications of this disaster budgeting, let us look at Amidon.

In recent years, Amidon-Bowen has had two full-time interventionists, for reading and math. Neither has ever been included in the school’s initial budget allocations. This year, the principal again requested two interventionists—but got funds for only one. The LSAT then made the tough choice of a part-time reading interventionist and a part-time math interventionist for next school year. This means students behind one or more grade levels will get only half the intervention time they received before the pandemic, even as some have fallen further behind during the pandemic. 

Amidon-Bowen also currently has a specials teacher who serves as a part-time PE teacher and part-time science teacher. But in its initial budget allocation, Amidon lost this full-time specials teacher. Yet, the school is adding a classroom next year, which means that this cut also decreases the number of possible specials rotations next school year. And all the cuts mean fewer school-wide supports and staff for a greater number of classes—not to mention fewer staff to address the challenges of social distancing requirements. 

And all this at a school that has not lost any enrollment for years running—and used to have full-time Spanish and science teachers.

Beyond Amidon, four other Ward 6 schools–Brent, Miner, Van Ness, and Walker-Jones–will have no librarian next year, and Ludlow-Taylor will be reducing its full-time librarian to part-time. We know that having a full-time certified library media specialist supports literacy development. What are we saying to the children who attend those schools by cutting their librarians–and in a time of trauma?

Yet, DCPS is directing federal stimulus funds for new programs or additional supports for the summer—even though paying vendors to provide services is not an adequate substitute for keeping staff who know students and their school communities and are needed now.

Worse, these DCPS budget cuts have a terrible urgency, because staff who are told their positions are no longer funded will soon find employment elsewhere. If DCPS waits until late spring to restore these positions, it may be too late to get back staff or hire the best new staffers.

And worst of all, the experiences of Ward 6 schools show explicitly who these cuts will hurt the most: Black and brown children, many of whose families have already been devastated by the pandemic.  

It doesn’t need to be this way—and you can change it.

With a $500 million surplus in 2020, our city should not be forcing LSATs to choose where and how our schools should fail our children.

Rather, DC can and should invest for recovery now. 

That means: 

—No school budget and staff cuts for SY21-22

—Investment in regular school day staff with federal stimulus funds, which can and should be used for that purpose by DCPS, which is expected to receive more than $100 million

—Targeted investment in school mental health staff, whose services are desperately needed for full pandemic recovery

—Investment in staffing to help with virtual learning at each school and to adhere to health and safety guidelines

—Creation of digital infrastructure for equitable distance learning, with a 1:1 device ratio, internet for all, and readily available tech support for all schools

—Understanding that funds for tutoring, summer school, and afterschool programming are not replacements for instructional staff in regular school days

We do not lack money to do all of this for all our schools right now. 

We only lack political will. 

In this time of great need, with achievement gaps only growing, DC needs to invest in our schools and children for recovery—not disaster. Thank you.

Upcoming Opportunities to Support DCPS School Staffing and Budgets

Dear DC School Community Members,

Thank you for your support in demanding the city maintain the current staffing levels at all DCPS schools for the upcoming school year AND increase funding in schools serving students most impacted by the pandemic.

794 community members from 97 schools across all 8 wards have shown their support. Thank you to all the school communities who have shared how their school staff will be cut, and to school communities who have signed the petition in solidarity.

The DC Council will hold a public roundtable on DCPS Initial School Level Budgets (for school year 2021-22) on Friday, April 2 @ 9:30am. Representatives from the Ward Education Councils who co-sponsored the petition have been asked to testify. We need your help.

  • Please help us get to 1000 signatures by sharing this petition with your school communities and neighborhood communities. Find the link HERE.
  • If you are able, please watch the hearing and support via Twitter using #fundDCPSschools #noDCPScuts
    • Watch the hearing live April 2 @ 9:30am (or recorded later) HERE
    • Find social media contacts for DC Council, Mayor, Chancellor, Ed Council, and Media HERE

We will send a reminder on Friday morning ahead of the hearing. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Thank you,

Betsy Wolf and Sandra Moscoso (please see all petition sponsors below)

Sponsors:
Ward 2 Education Council
Ward 3 Wilson Feeder Education Network
Ward 4 Education Alliance
Ward 5 Education Equity Committee
Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization
Ward 7 Education Council
Ward 8 Education Council

Layla Bonnot, 1A01
Christine Miller, 1A05
Judson Wood, 1A06
Jason Clock, 1A12
Lisa Gore, 3G01
Evan Yeats, 4B01
Erin Palmer, 4B02
Tiffani Nichole Johnson, 4B06
Colleen Costello, 5B05
Robb Dooling, 6A06
Dorothy Douglas, 7D03

DC Fiscal Policy Institute

W6PSPO & Friends Support of OSSE PARCC Waiver Request

Acting Superintendent Young, 

We (parents, educators and community members) strongly support the DC Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE)’s request for a systemwide PARCC reading and math assessment waiver this spring 2021, and we agree with the request to suspend the calculating of new STAR ratings for SY 2020/2021.

Between February 12 and February 24, 2021, 1,225 parents, educators and community members across DC Public Schools and DC public charter schools signed on to a petition to cancel the PARCC assessment in spring, 2021. DC community members agreed “DC Needs To Prioritize Time for Social, Emotional and Academic Learning Over Time for Testing.”

Students and educators have already lost too much learning time to disruptions caused by school closures and waves of quarantines, community and family illness, economic crisis, inadequate attention to digital equity needs, and social and mental health impacts. We should be investing every minute of in-person or remote learning into making up for lost time – not adding to the time deficit.

Testing takes precious resources away from learning and other supports for students when they need them most. Testing this spring would happen over an 8-week period, deploying educators and staff away from providing learning and support services to proctoring tests and preparing and managing test logistics.

These high-stakes tests add stress to students already burdened by added, unprecedented pandemic-related stresses. We should instead be reducing stresses and supporting students’ social, emotional and mental health.

Test scores won’t be valid or available in time to help students now nor to plan for addressing learning loss this summer or next school year. Not only will tests be invalid due to variations in testing environments, mandated standardized testing does not provide educators the data needed to meet individual student learning needs in real time, which is what we need right now.

For the sake of students, we support this waiver request.

Please find attached the signatories and their comments.

Sandra Moscoso and Suzanne Wells 

on behalf of The Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO) and the attached signatories

For Action: OSSE PARCC Waiver Requests are Open for Public Comment Through April 2, 2021

Good news! You can review OSSE’s requests for one-year waivers for PARCC testing HERE and provide comment via email to osse.assessment@dc.gov by April 2, 2021.

It’s worth noting in the Statewide Assessment Waiver Request, OSSE proposes to:

Collect and share information transparently with the public on local interim assessments as well as a spectrum of previously and newly collected data on student outcomes and experiences in lieu of statewide assessments.”

Let’s hold OSSE to this, especially as our schools need this data to develop robust plans to support students over Summer and Fall, 2021. Our schools need analytic support – we’re hoping OSSE will deliver this.

Thanks again to everyone who supported our petition to cancel PARCC this year.

Petition: Our Students and Schools Need More Funding, Not Cuts

DC Public Schools is forcing schools to cut staff for the 2021-22 school year, the first year of recovery after more than one year of disrupted learning due to Covid-19. Education councils in Wards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, and ANC Commissioners initiated this petition to demand that the city maintain the current staffing levels at all DCPS schools for the upcoming school year AND increase funding in schools serving students most impacted by the pandemic. Please consider signing this and sharing with your networks.

Sign the petition here.


To: DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, Chairman of the DC Council, Phil Mendelson, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee

From: The Education Councils of Wards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8

DC Public Schools is forcing schools to cut staff for the 2021-22 school year, the first year of recovery after more than one year of disrupted learning due to Covid-19. We, as parents, teachers, and community members across DC demand that the city maintain current staffing levels for the upcoming school year to support recovery. DC must also invest more in schools in under-resourced areas to address the disproportionate impacts of Covid-19.

51% of DCPS schools lost staff positions for the 2021-22 school year in their initial budgets (and relative to pre-pandemic budgets) according to local budget expert, Mary Levy. These staffing cuts cannot be explained by lower student enrollments. Schools face staffing cuts for a number of reasons each year, including increases in staffing costs.

Meanwhile, DCPS is expecting to receive from the American Rescue Plan around $275 million in stimulus funding to support schools in recovering from the multilayered impacts of the pandemic. These federal funds can be used for “activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services … and to employ existing staff.” While DCPS could use these federal funds for any purpose – including to fund staff and develop a multi-year staffing plan – DCPS instead chooses not to do so. In addition, the DC government reported a $500M surplus in its own 2020 budget, reducing budget pressure for the city.

The city must do better to meet the needs of all students, given that staffing cuts will be felt most heavily in schools that are already under-resourced. In addition, lack of supplemental investment in education at this critical time will exacerbate the unacceptably large gaps in learning by student race and income. We ask that you fund DCPS schools for recovery:

  • Schools need more staff, not less, to address learning needs. Schools with fewer staff cannot provide the same level of targeted supports when the academic needs of some students have increased due to the pandemic. Funds promised for summer and afterschool programs must not be considered replacements for instructional staff during regular school days.
  • Schools will need more staff to adhere to health and safety guidelines, continue to provide virtual options, and offer in-person learning to more students. Fewer school staff puts many schools at risk of not having adequate resources to serve all students and re-open safely.
  • Schools need additional support to address whole-child needs. Mental health support for students continues to be the most highly demanded request in the city, and the pandemic has exacerbated this need. It is particularly short-sighted and imprudent to cut existing school staff before we have a solid handle on all the mental health, socio-emotional, and academic needs that students will face as in-person learning increases and virtual learning continues to evolve.

DCPS parent L.D. Parker recently said it best: “We are literally being asked to choose where to fail our children.” For the sake of students, we ask that you increase funding for DCPS school budgets NOW to maintain current staffing levels and address increased needs. Time is critical, as schools and staff are currently making employment decisions.

Sign the petition here.

Sponsors:
Ward 2 Education Council
Ward 3 Wilson Feeder Education Network
Ward 4 Education Alliance
Ward 5 Education Equity Committee
Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization
Ward 7 Education Council
Ward 8 Education Council

Layla Bonnot, 1A01
Christine Miller, 1A05
Judson Wood, 1A06
Jason Clock, 1A12
Lisa Gore, 3G01
Evan Yeats, 4B01
Erin Palmer, 4B02
Tiffani Nichole Johnson, 4B06
Colleen Costello, 5B05
Robb Dooling, 6A06
Dorothy Douglas, 7D03

CC:
Councilmember Charles Allen
Councilmember Anita Bonds
Councilmember Mary Cheh
Councilmember Janeese Lewis George
Councilmember Vincent Gray
Councilmember Christina Henderson
Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie
Councilmember Brianne Nadeau
Councilmember Brooke Pinto
Councilmember Elissa Silverman
Councilmember Robert White Jr.
Councilmember Trayon White Sr.

CancelPARCC update and the state of student level data in DC

Dear DC School Community Members,

Last week, DC Public Schools communicated to school leaders to pause PARCC planning this year, pending the Office of State Superintendent for Education (OSSE) request for a waiver. This is great news, as it relieves principals, teachers and staff from the burden of planning logistics. We’re curious as to whether other LEAs or schools have sent similar communications to school communities. Please do let us know.

Related to student data and the city’s data collection systems, the Office of the DC Auditor released a report this week with the following findings:

  • We [via OSSE] do not collect the data needed to know whether public education in the District of Columbia is succeeding 
  • We do not know if our interventions are improvements or merely interventions 
  • Our ability to bring about racial equity through education policy and practice is thereby crippled

We hope you’ll consider reading the report. You can watch the press conference or read the presentation for a summary

We invite you to learn more about the state of transparency in DC education by joining the DC Open Government Coalition’s 2021 Open Government Summit on Thursday, March 18 @ 1:00pm (Register HERE). Details here. (We are sponsors of this event).

Valerie Jablow Testimony – Oversight Hearing for Education Agencies – March 9, 2021

My name is Valerie Jablow, and as a DCPS parent, I am testifying about DCPS; the charter board; DME; and OSSE. That’s 3 minutes to address the performance of four agencies handling more than $2 BILLION annually—45 seconds per agency or about $11 million per second.

As a public witness, I am theoretically like everyone else testifying today, even though some are here on behalf of private organizations with direct fiscal interest in these agencies. 1

1. Two public witnesses on the list for this hearing—from the DC Policy Center and from EmpowerK12–will be working with OSSE’s new research practice partnership, headed by the Urban Institute.

Many parents and school staff cannot be here because they are working. One of those missing parents has worked years before the pandemic on getting our schools closer to digital equity—without being paid a dime.2

2. This is Grace Hu, DCPS parent and lead on Digital Equity in DC Education, whose paid work has nothing to do with any of the agencies here.

Indeed, like most DCPS parents (as well as most DC citizens), whether on ward education councils or PTAs, I am not paid in any way

  • to testify;
  • to speak to anyone in DC government; or
  • to rent rooms in the Wilson building and purchase food for round robin meetings with council members and staff to advance an agenda. 3

3 PAVE did this for several years. It was not deemed lobbying because PAVE (paid) staff did not meet with council members or staff. PAVE (paid) staff simply made everything else possible, so (unpaid) parents could advance PAVE’s agenda. What PTAs or ward ed councils do this–or have paid staff?

As neither the council nor the mayor have visitor logs, it seems important to say this.

It’s also important to say that proposed changes to DC’s school governance are being floated because mayoral control is not working for many students and families.

Here’s more about how it’s not working:

–I found out from a tweet that DCPS last month was discussing locating another high school in the building of my child’s DCPS high school, Duke Ellington. No one at Duke knew about or was involved in the discussions. 4

4 You can see the planning discussions here: https://dcpsplanning.wordpress.com/category/wilson-feeder-pattern/

–This is exactly how our charter schools operate: someone somewhere signs a lease or buys a property and/or plans a school, after which the public finds out and can only react fruitlessly—while paying for the whole thing. 5

5 There are many stories about this through DC—here is a recent one concerning DC Prep: https://washingtoncitypaper.com/article/177841/dc-prep-wants-to-build-a-charter-school-in-southeast-but-the-neighborhood-says-no/ Interestingly, the council just passed legislation to ensure that DC Prep would have first dibs on the closed Wilkinson school, which would leave up in the air the property DC Prep bought in Ward 8, the subject of that linked story. Will the community there have a say in whether DC Prep locates there or simply becomes a landlord?

–As it is, the law governing a public right of first offer for closed DCPS schools to charters has been rendered moot by private meetings as well as legislation to offer Kenilworth and Wilkinson, respectively, to specific charter schools. 6

6 Kenilworth was offered in nonpublic meetings to Statesmen: https://educationdc.net/2018/07/20/when-public-officials-go-private-kenilworth-edition/  Wilkinson is being offered to DC Prep on the premise that DC Prep is losing its rental space at Birney—even though DC Prep owns a property in Ward 8 that it could use instead: https://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/CA24-0032 Both offers go around DC Code for right of first offer of closed DCPS facilities to charters—essentially giving priority to some charters over others. How is that a fair marketplace for schools?

–The current discussion around Duke involves more than $100 million of capital spending outside the law governing that, in an effort to expand capacity in Ward 3 (the only ward with all its schools already renovated), while schools elsewhere remain untouched by fulsome modernizations. 7

7 The plan to expand Ward 3 school capacity is outlined here: https://educationdc.net/2020/08/14/advantaging-the-advantaged-a-tale-of-312-million/ Disparities in modernizations are outlined by the 21st Century School Fund here: https://educationdc.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/inequity.pdf and here:

This image was created by Mary Levy in October 2019 (and is available here:
https://educationdc.files.wordpress.com/2019/10/image006.png and here:
https://twitter.com/MaryLevy17/status/1180912151252410370)
All of this Ward 3 capital effort (outside the PACE Act and without any consideration of changing out of bounds slots, feeder schools, and boundaries), alongside the Kenilworth and Wilkinson offers, suggests that there is indeed a master facilities plan—it’s just not public and is centered on the needs of the most powerful in the city, rather than having anything to do with racial equity. If, as DCPS notes in its Wilson feeder pattern documents, expanding capacity in Ward 3 is about “equity in access,” why aren’t we expanding schools there so everyone in DCPS has a seat of right there? What “equity” is this expenditure of >$100 million for Ward 3 and who is it serving? What could that >$100 million be used for instead of curated diversity in one ward’s schools?

–Even though most of Ward 3’s schools are not overcapacity if only in bounds students attended, the expansion is to ensure diversity—while DCPS is not examining the diversity of schools elsewhere nor allowing voices from elsewhere while decisions are made now. 8

8 You can see this Ward 3 capacity/in bounds student mismatch here: https://educationdc.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/wilson-feeder-shed-enrollment-utilization-draft.jpg

–Recall that Duke’s field was taken away so the mayor could give away prime use of another public field to a private school—as if the purpose of DCPS assets is not for students, but to balance the mayor’s political priorities. 9

9 This is what happened to Duke’s field: https://educationdc.net/2020/04/27/the-education-mysteries-tale-2-ellington-field/

–All this is happening while budget expert Mary Levy has determined that budgets have been cut at 49 of 115 DCPS schools—mostly nonselective schools east of Rock Creek Park. A good number are not even projected to lose enrollment.

–Even DCPS schools without budget cuts have effectively had them anyway, because staff costs have grown more than budgets. This is not recovery.

–DCPS has also barred the use of federal relief funds for staffing—despite the fact that with a timeline of almost 3 years, those funds will be around longer than many DC teachers.

–DCPS is thus denying its own schools recovery funds for needed staff in recovery efforts, while there is no guidance from OSSE otherwise—a move that empowers LEAs over individual schools and their specific needs.

–And while DCPS has pushed re-opening, principals, teachers, and families were not involved as true partners in formulating, and implementing, re-opening plans—while no one has examined re-opening through a racial equity lens, recognizing that until everyone is vaccinated, distance learning should be a FLOOR for at least 2021. 10

10 At at least one DCPS school, the re-open committee convened by DCPS for advising on re-opening had its plans overruled by DCPS. So what was the point of that exercise? As it is, re-opening is not an easy or obvious conversation: the science does NOT show that children are not transmitting the virus, there is no way to ensure they do not transmit it, and there is no way to ensure everyone is vaccinated before the end of 2021, much less even later. This means that distance learning should be a FLOOR for at least 2021 and be made as equitable and good as it can be (which is not happening now). Finally, ask WHO is demanding a return to FT in person learning—are they the majority of DC public school families?  

–And all this is happening as discussions (at two council hearings and uncounted private meetings) about the virtues of extended time or tutoring have trumped sustained investment in what we know will help our students now: more social workers, emotional support structures, and stability in staffing and budgeting at our schools.

We can do much better. Thank you.

W6PSPO Meets Tuesday March 16 @ 7pm

Dear Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization Members,

  1. W6PSPO will meet on Tuesday, March 16, at 7 pm.  Paul Kihn, the Deputy Mayor of Education (DME), will join us to discuss the recovery planning being done by his office.  This will be an opportunity to share your experiences and ideas around school reopening, virtual learning, accelerating learning, mental health and wellness, and other issues of concern to you. After the discussion with the DME, we will have an open discussion about the priority areas we want to focus our attention on in the coming months.
    • If you registered for a previous W6PSPO meeting, the link you received for that meeting will work for this and future W6PSPO meetings.  Contact us at w6pspo@gmail.com for registration link.
  2. Bike to School Day is May 5, and W6PSPO plans to host a covid-safe event at Lincoln Park.  Congratulations to Miner Elementary for being the first school to register in DC.  Please register your school for this year’s Bike to School Day!
  3. The Committee of the Whole held a DCPS performance oversight hearing on March 9.  A number of W6PSPO members testified including Sandra Moscoso, Valerie Jablow and Grace Hu.  Special thanks to Sandra for posting their testimonies on the W6PSPO website.
  4. The Cancel the PARCC petition received over 1,200 signatures!  As many of you know, OSSE announced they are planning to seek a one-year waiver from the Department of Education in order to suspend administering the PARCC.  OSSE needs to submit the waiver request, and it needs to be approved by the Department of Education before the PARCC can be suspended this year.
  5. The Office of the DC Auditor released an audit, “Measuring What Matters: this week that points to deficiencies and noncompliance in OSSE data collection, governance, analysis, public engagement, and beyond. W6PSPO parents Dr. Betsy Wolf and Valerie Jablow have distilled some of the findings.
    • Read the full report HERE.
    • Join the DC Open Government Summit on Thursday, March 18 @ 1:00pm, where among other guests, DC Auditor Kathy Patterson will share findings and EmpowerEd’s Scott Goldstein will share the “Our Schools Our Voice” campaign to make education policy more accessible to school communities.

Suzanne Wells

Elizabeth Mitchell Testimony – Oversight Hearing for Education Agencies – March 9, 2021

If you had asked me in June to come up with the worst reopening plan imaginable, I’m not sure I could have done as amazing a job as DCPS. It’s almost art.  

After promising us soap at the onset of the pandemic – mind you- after one of the worst flu seasons our school had ever seen-my trust was a wee bit shaken. 

As the months progressed, there was even less clear communication, less transparency about what was being done to get our kids back into schools. They abruptly cut the school year short. They seemed to bicker and blame the WTU all summer rather than engaging with schools and communities around the city to see what we actually needed and wanted in our plans. We all hoped they were working on facilities upgrades and the backlog of repairs that was thousands of items long. We waited and waited in vain as our schools failed to physically reopen to in person learning time and time and time again for the entire fall and then even into the new year. 

With very little direction and guidance, we managed to get some schools open for a few students in Term 3-at long last. Some of the teachers even got vaccinated before they returned to the classroom-not immunized but at least partially vaccinated! 

And now we come to the most glorious season of them all-the budget! Where schools across the District compete blindly for an unknown amount of funding completely controlled and doled out by the mayor-I mean DCPS. Why do we do this? Why is our budget season so Hunger Games-esque? Why do we make our schools compete for funds in such an inhumane and biased way? 

Schools are being asked to slash budgets and actually cut staff when we all know that’s exactly the wrong thing to do right now. We know our teachers are burned out. We know our students need extra help-not less. We know that when our students are actually able to safely return to classrooms they are going to be very different than the students that left last March. 

Let’s plan and budget for those students…the ones we know are coming back and the ones we know are going to need extra support. They will need academic, social and emotional support to deal with all of the trauma they will be bringing back with them and packing into our classrooms. 

The pandemic is a very present and evolving problem. Do we even know how many of our students will be facing homelessness when the evictions start rolling in? How do these budgets reflect what their needs are going to be? How do these budgets reflect the repairs and remodels schools across the city need to welcome their students back? “Repairs” to schools like Peabody that might have prevented its entire atrium from collapsing? Making sure there’s hot water and fully functioning bathrooms in every school would be a welcome start.  

Instead of making our schools compete and argue for a future they can barely comprehend, let’s plan together and finally fully fund our schools so that we can start to undo some of the trauma. We had a $500 million budget surplus last year. We are about to get billions of dollars in COVID Aid. 

Now is the time to fully fund out public schools. 

Now is the time to build a comprehensive 10 year plan so that we don’t end up with a lost generation. 

Mental health supports, social workers in every school, extra teachers and staff, and fully fund the Dyslexia bill so that we can meet these students where they are and carry them forward into a brighter future.

And plus one to everything and anything Mary Levy said. 

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: