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. 

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. 

Remarks by Danica Petroshius – WTU Hearing and Rally on DCPS Reopening Plan

Remarks by Danica Petroshius

DCPS Parent

WTU Rally

October 23, 2020

Good afternoon. My name is Danica Petroshius and I am a parent of two children at a DCPS school that serves students from every Ward, with the highest percentage of students residing in Wards 5-8. We are a strong school community built on: 

  • Community created by our families and educators now and those that came before us;
  • our diversity; and
  • our willingness to work together on solutions.

Building community and trust in schools is hard, daily work – but it is the secret sauce that keeps our schools moving forward and improving.

The Mayor’s plan fails us. It breaks a critical formula for public school success – it tries to divide communities instead of bringing them together. The Council has followed suit by denying parents and educators the opportunity to testify on the record about our concerns.

I stand here today on behalf of parents across our city that support our teachers.

Families have different needs and perspectives on when and how schools should reopen. I respect and appreciate all of those perspectives. But I have overwhelmingly heard that despite our different needs and perspectives, parents want to first and foremost support our teachers because:

We value communities where teachers and parents work together.

We value rich academic learning that happens because of our teachers.

We value the relationships our students and teachers have created that build the social, emotional well-being that our students need – more now than ever.

We value the additional supports that every adult in our school buildings provide for our students from our custodians to counselors to librarians to social workers to classroom assistants to coaches to our school leaders.

We value the need for mental health supports in our schools – a need that has only gotten more acute during the pandemic.

We value full transparency of standards and evidence of the highest protocols of health and safety.

We value equity – and that includes more creativity than the current binary solutions offered. We know that this limited notion of in-person or virtual will not meet the needs of students where virtual is not working, but families are also at high risk of COVID.

And we value the health and safety of every adult, child and family in our schools.

City leadership failed to deliver on every point. Just last night, the Chancellor sent an email to parents that purposefully tries to mislead parents into thinking that teachers are bought into this plan.

Let’s be clear: at no point does it say the magic words: “We have come to an agreement with our teachers on how to move forward.”

City leaders do not share our values by trying to mislead us and leave teachers out of decision-making.

City leaders do not share our values by trying to pit families against educators.

City leaders do not share our values by prioritizing disruption over relationships.

City leaders do not share our values by prioritizing rushed solutions over solutions that will meet the needs of our students.

City leaders do not share our values by prioritizing secrecy and spin over transparency and evidence.

The lack of shared values is speaking louder to parents than the rhetoric by DCPS and the Mayor.

Parents feel the disruption, the silence instead of asking parents what they need, and the lack of teacher engagement baked into this half-baked plan.

When you don’t co-create with teachers, you lose parent trust.

City leaders should develop a plan that is co-developed with teachers, minimizes disruption to what is working now, and responds to real information about what every family needs – especially those where both in-person and virtual do not work well.

Finally, let’s be real. This has happened before and it’s happening again only with more dire consequences. Too often, families and schools are left carrying the burden of bad decision-making. It is us who will fix this for you, again and again, whether you ask us or not. We will not walk away from our children and we will not walk away from our schools. We remain here, right here, waiting and fixing, for you to hear us and care.

Thank you.

Sandra Moscoso – SBOE Meeting on Reopening of DC Public Schools

Testimony of Sandra Moscoso

before the DC State Board of Education

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Reopening of Schools

President Watterberg and State Board of Education Representatives, thank you for the opportunity to testify. My name is Sandra Moscoso. I live in Ward 6 and am the parent of two students at School Without Walls High School, where I serve as the President of the Home and School Association.

I am here to raise grave concerns about how DC Public Schools, together with the Department of General Services are proceeding with plans to reopen schools for in person instruction in a way that excludes teachers, threatens principals, and ignores very real concerns raised by parents. 

It’s no secret that teachers have been excluded from the planning process around reopening schools. Instead of engaging them, and building sensible practices or co-creating distance-friendly solutions, teachers have been treated like an afterthought, with no regard for their expertise and worse, with no regard for their well-being and health.

Principals have been kept in the dark, and forced to respond to last minute decisions or reversals that come from Central Office. I got the first taste of it this summer while DCPS insisted summer bridge would be in-person, suggesting teacher shortages be filled by Central Office staff who know nothing about the schools they would be representing. This DCPS “solution” would come back to haunt us this week. DCPS reversed course at the last minute, leaving Principals scrambling to recruit teachers in the summer and pull together last minute virtual classes.

Principals have also been silenced. A little over two weeks ago, Principal Trogisch publicly shared that DCPS and DGS could not answer his basic questions about air filtration and ventilation standards. He was transparent with his community and that he would not open Francis-Stevens elementary if he did not feel it was safe. Days later, he was abruptly fired for what was originally described to us as “administrative’ reasons, leaving 1200 students, their families and their educators shocked and devastated. DCPS recklessness was no oversight. When asked how this decision, made during a pandemic, weeks from reopening schools, was in the best interest of students, Chief of Secondary Schools Cito Narcisse and Instructional Superintendent Jellig responded simply. “It is not in the best interest of students.”

DCPS’s actions inspire no confidence and have not just eroded the trust of parents in Central Office, but now threaten to erode the trust we have in our own principals, who have been given the very clear message to fall in line or be dismissed. 

Like yesterday’s news of DCPS’ plan to pull staff from secondary schools to support CARES classes, DCPS continues to introduce ideas that threaten to disrupt the fragile “new normal” we have all worked so hard to build. Their recklessness threatens to destabilize academic scaffolding and every school community’s mental health.

I am here to ask the State Board of Education to pass a resolution to call for the reinstatement of Principal Trogisch, to express no confidence in the way Chancellor Ferebee has handled his firing, and to express no confidence in how DC Public Schools is rolling out the plans to reopen for in-person learning.

Thank You.

Suzanne Wells Testimony – SBOE Meeting on Reopening of DC Public Schools

DC State Board of Education

Public Meeting

October 20, 2020

Re-opening of Schools

My name is Suzanne Wells, and I am the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization. Thank you for the opportunity to testify this evening about the plans to re-open the DCPS. The State Board of Education is the only elected body that has welcomed public comment on the reopening plans, and for than I am grateful.

DCPS recently announced their plans to proceed with a limited reopening of its schools on November 9.  This plan was developed with little to no input from teachers and parents, and that is its major problem.  Had DCPS worked collaboratively with teachers and parents on the reopening plan, I can assure you the plan would look very different from what it currently looks like.

The Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization recently put out an open letter asking parents to share their questions and comments about reopening.  Attached to my testimony are the questions and comments we’ve received to date.

As would be expected, there are many questions about the safety of the schools.  Questions about ventilation, disinfecting surfaces, sanitizing bathrooms, etc.  Nobody wants to return to school if it isn’t safe, and there is a chance of contacting Covid-19. I suspect there will be answers to these questions though many parents are suspicious.  Many schools, especially in wards 5, 6, 7 and 8, still haven’t haven’t had full renovations, and don’t have modern ventilation systems.  Especially at these un-renovated schools, how will they be made safe?

The DCPS reopening plan doesn’t address how we will ensure students and teachers who are sick will not enter the schools.  There are no temperature checks when you enter a school building.  There are no plans for covid testing.  There are no plans for contact tracing.  Not all schools will have nurses.  It seems that basic, common-sense precautions to protect teachers and students have not even been considered in the reopening plan.

The DCPS reopening plan is a uniform plan that is being applied to a wide diversity of situations.  When DCPS announced the start of Student Support Centers in October, these plans were developed by principals who had an understanding of their school communities and needs.  The Student Support Centers were taking incremental steps to reopening.  Some were offering in-person recess to support the social emotional development of its youngest students.  Others were offering outdoor learning activities for their special education students.  The schools developed their Student Support Center plans to reach their students who most needed in-person instruction, and were doing it in safe ways.  DCPS could have expanded the number of schools offering Student Support Centers, and evaluated them for what could be learned, but instead announced its uniform reopening plan.

What might be most troubling about the plan is that they didn’t involve the very families who are expected to send their child for in-person instruction.  They didn’t ask these families if in-person instruction is what would best meet their family’s needs.  I am hearing anecdotal reports that some of the families identified for in-person instruction don’t feel safe sending their child to in-person school. 

What surprised me the most in the answers we got is how many parents were concerned that the reopening plan would disrupt the online learning currently occurring.  Many felt their teachers had done a very good job engaging their class in the on-line learning, and they feared that teachers might be pulled from on-line learning to support in-person instruction, and that the class sizes could increase placing great burdens on teachers.

It’s shameful that so much time and energy has been spent developing a plan that is devoid of parent and teacher voice.  Only when DCPS brings its key stakeholders to the table to help it create a reopen plan will we have a plan that meets teacher and family needs.

Walk to School Day is October 7, 2020 – Join Us or *Join* Us!

Ready to celebrate Walk to School Day? Join us at Lincoln Park for a (mask on) socially distant event, or *join* us virtually by getting out for a walk to drop off your ballot at the ballot drop box closest to you. Or you just take a walk around the neighborhood before heading (back) to (home) school.

However you celebrate, here’s how to join us:

  1. Register your school (today):
  2. Tell all your friends – share this flyer.
  3. Make the Good Trouble Pledge!
  4. On October 7, 2020, 7:30am-8:15am, put on a mask 😷, your school gear 🧢 (or what you think John Lewis might wear🧥🎒) and:
    • Join the (socially distant) festivities at Lincoln Park, OR
    • Join virtually
      IMPORTANT: We want everyone to be safe, so please join virtually if you are not feeling well (even if just a sniffle).
  5. TAKE PHOTOS 📷 🤳🏽: Tag #GoodTroubleWalk @w6pspo @lwvdc on Insta or Twitter so we can include you in our public art tribute to Congressman John Lewis.

*We NEED VOLUNTEERS* (8th graders & HS students get service hours). Contact

LaJoy Johnson-Law Testimony – Joint Budget Oversight Hearing for Education Agencies

TESTIMONY for Committee on Education Budget Oversight Proposed FY 21

Joint Budget Oversight Hearing for all Education Agencies

June 4, 2020

 LaJoy Johnson-Law, Ward 8 parent and disability and education advocate

Good Afternoon Chairman Mendelson, Councilmember Grosso and the Committee on Education. My name is LaJoy Johnson-Law (Ms. Law), and I am a community member of the ward 8 education council, resident of “The Great Ward 8, but most importantly, I am Abria’s mom. I advocate because of Abria, my miracle baby, but I am here to share the voices of my community, as many of them are unable to speak before you today. It is not a simple task to go to work, provide for your household, homeschool and collaborate with the school for your child, manage the digital divide, and ensure a family’s health, safety, and emotional well-being. Ward 8 families deserve the assurance that their needs are at the forefront of all policy and budget decisions that will directly impact their families. COVID-19 has shown us that we can no longer have multiple equity gaps in our education system.

We call for you to acknowledge that Ward 8 students are equitably accounted for. Many of the asks today are for a reinstatement of funds cut from the budget, and these cuts disproportionately impact Ward 8 communities. How can we claim to care for Ward 8 when we’ve made such cuts? It’s time that we rectify these oversights by implementing the following asks:

Equitable Budget Allocation for Ward 8 Schools, Parents, and Students:

  1. Increase at-risk weight from .225 to 0.37, close gap of $68.8 million. Not increasing the at-risk funding is a mistake- many of our children in Ward 8 are at-risk students and these dollars are needed to ensure they obtain equity.
  2. Fully fund DBH school-based mental health expansion with a $16 million budget allocation. The major cuts to DBH’s budget will cripple an already strained system’s ability to deploy providers to schools. It is counterproductive and potentially deadly to cut DBH’s budget when Ward 8 residents are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and as a result bear the brunt of the mental health repercussions of this pandemic.
  3. Fund safe passageways for schools in Ward 8. We understand the direct link between systemic oppression and violence in our communities, yet we’ve cut funding for existing violence prevention programs in the city. In a time of unprecedented economic and social upheaval, we must ensure that our communities have the support they need to navigate. Too many of our children have died as a result of our neglect, and we must take this opportunity to ensure Ward 8 children live to see adulthood.
  4. Support Digital Equity In DC Education’s ask to allocate an additional $11 million to fully fund a hybrid learning model and 1:1 computer access for all students in grades K-12. The Mayor’s budget does not adequately support technology (both the devices and IT support) for a hybrid learning model, in which students will spend a significant portion of time learning at home next school year.
  5. And finally, for the Council and Committee on Education to collaborate with the Ward 8 Education Council to help our families, teachers and schools.

We understand that this is a tough time for everyone and this is an unprecedented pandemic. But, in order for us to get through this together, we must include all of our stakeholders, and that includes educators, community members, and families. This public health emergency has only shown us the deep inequities that we have in our school system, inequities that we should all be ashamed of allowing to go on for so long and we should all be committed to improving these inequities immediately. It’s time to place people over politics or party and saving the lives of all students in all Wards over saving dollars. DC cannot continue to allow any more inequities in our education system. Parents and the Ward 8 community even wrote a letter which is attached to my written testimony to show that the Ward 8 Community Matters. Our Community Matters, Our Families Matter and Most of All our Children Matter!!! WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!

Thank you.

Ms. Law


Ward 8 Parents hea broken over the lack of Parent Engagement and Representation in Distance Learning and DC Education during COVID-19

May 6, 2020

To: District of Columbia Mayor, Muriel E. Bowser

Cc: Chairman Phil Mendelson; Councilmembers Anita Bonds, David Grosso, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, Vincent Gray, Trayon White Sr.

Dear Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Reopen DC Committee for Education and Child Care

We, the parents of Ward 8, community members, and concerned residents were heartbroken to hear that there were no community parents and teacher members chosen to be on the DC Reopen education recovery committee. As a city, it is imperative that we include parent voices and their perspectives since they have been home physically educating students. It is critical to have a diverse group of community members in responding to COVID-19—to establish effective measures and actions in regards to education and child care.

Parents have been homeschooling their children and have been team players throughout the public health emergency, which is why it was so disturbing to hear that we were not included in the Reopen DC Education Recovery Committee. Parents’ voices have been at the forefront during this public health emergency and we all have been collaborative with our schools and teachers to give updates on our children. It is not a simple task to go to work, provide for your household, homeschool and collaborate with the school for your child, manage the digital divide and ensure a family’s health, safety, and emotional well being is taken care of. This has been a draining and difficult time for many parents. All of these stories and needs deserve to be at the forefront of all policy and budget decisions that will impact ward 8 families.

The perspective of parents and students need to be at the decision-making table in a proactive way to help make decisions regarding how learning will continue until there are effective and accessible measures to combat COVID-19. Decisions regarding the safety and health of our students, families, and communities should not be made without centering Ward 8 communities, parents, and teacher voices. Please do not allow, this city to reopen without acknowledging and accepting the wisdom, assistance, and institutional knowledge of parents, educators, and families that work, live and learn in every ward in the District of Columbia, but especially in ward 8.

We call for you to acknowledge and please right this wrong as Ward 8 students are equally and will most likely be negatively impacted by the decisions and guidance made by this committee. Representation will be achieved through the following guidance:

Inclusion in the decision-making process for Reopening D.C.

  • Immediately appoint community parent members to the recovery education committee representing each ward especially for Ward 8
  • Make equity and transparency the center in all decisions especially for Ward 8
  • Ensure the health and welfare of students, families, staff at all schools and recreation and child care facilities
  • Ensure a centralized entity that provides collaboration between families, schools and educational leadership in the city (DME, OSSE, SBOE, DCPS, PCSB, and all LEAs) for the recovery
  • Ensure every child has access to digital devices and tools ( Laptops, Chromebooks, internet, etc)
  • Ensure uniformed guidance on recapping the end of SY19-20 at the beginning of SY20-21
  • Ensure Clear, System-Wide Communication and policies between ALL LEAs

Equitable Budget Allocation for Ward 8 Schools, Parents, and Students

  • Include ward 8 parent voice in any upcoming budget decisions
  • Include ward 8 parent voice in creating a budget for the state board of education and OSSE to develop and create a standard distance learning protocol for the future and ensure community, school, and family collaboration for each LEA.
  • Ensure there are NO budget cuts for Ward 8 schools and at-risk funding
  • Fund safe passageways for schools in Ward 8

We understand that this is a tough time for everyone and this is an unprecedented pandemic, but in order for us to get through this together, we must include all of our stakeholders, and that includes educators, community members, and families. This public health emergency has only shown us the deep inequities that we have in our school system. All students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers deserve leadership and vision. It’s time to place people over politics or party and saving the lives of all students over saving dollars. DC cannot allow any more inequities in our education system. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!

Thank you.


Ward 8 Families, Teachers, Educators, and Community

Yolanda Mcleod, Cindy McNeil, Jacque Patterson, Sr., Mechellelee Edwards, Lanet Scott, Tameka Garner Barry Vanessa Lemme, Etta Johnston, Adoshia Robinson, Gabrielle Alston, Wendy Glenn, Yolanda Powers, Crystal Gray, LaTasha Morgan, Yolanda Corbett, Lakendra brown, Nikkeishia Parmely, Markina Hall, Patria Bursey, Chioma Oruh, Maka Taylor, Zakiya Duvall, Dr. Lois Void, Claudia Barragan, Camille Campbell, Lewis Newton, Ramona Barber, Sherrie Essix, Gloria Powell, Crystal Bowman, Caroline Coleman, Teresa Greene, Samantha Leach, Fred Hill, Charles Boston, Frenchie Anthony, Christy Webster, LaJoy Johnson-Law

W6PSPO Meeting – May 7, 2020

Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO)

Virtual Meeting

May 7, 2020

1- Digital Equity in DC Education Update

  • DCPS has distributed ~8K devices.  Elementary school distributions happening this week.
  • Sent 2 pages of recommendations to DCPS. Asked for additional tech support; ensure curriculum includes picking up digital literacy skills
  • Wifi was set up in public spaces, not in public housing units
  • Pushing for analytical framework so there can be broader options at different price points
  • FY21 budget asks: DC Education Coalition for Change (DECC) trying to figure out – is there a way to advocate for federal funding

Q: sense on how many students still need laptops? When schools handout devices and hotspots they learn more about who needs them. Lacking good data on the full need. School principal shave a good sense of who needs them, but not down to the family level detail

Want DC gov now to start looking at options; if fed $ comes

2 – Re-Open DC Letter

  • 200+ signatures, based on ideas and Qs parents are asking about response to pandemic
  • Asked DME how groups are invited to participate, and stressed those most impacted need to be at the table. DME responded, but did not answer how ‘seats at the table’ are selected

3 – Re-Open DC Education and Child Care Committee

  • All input received has been taken into consideration
  • What got heard: families will be allowed to opt out
  • A lot of fear about bringing teachers and students back to school while there will be a lot of pressure on the schools to open up. 
    • Concern there can’t be a long-term phrase of mostly online learning 
    • Need to get students back to their communities and schools
    • Concerns; if we go back to school with social distancing, DCPS must take advantage of the space it has
    • Committee report now due May 15.  Committee members not likely to see report before it goes to the Mayor.
    • At what level is it prescriptive? How much does Department of Health determine and how much do LEAs? Will there be DoH on site to manage/watch over implementation of risk mitigators
  • Need to push DCPS to hear voice of parents who have to be at work, those struggling with digital learning, students who are ELL and those missing sense of community

Q: Education report goes to Mendelson/Rice/Fenty/ will form all the input into one doc.  Unclear who is doing the writing (Kihn, etc?)

  • Will there be consistent recommendations across sectors?
  • Acknowledgement that families should have right to make own decisions and schools should have the responsibility to connect with families
  • Not a lot of disagreement across what various groups submitted

Q: What was Liz Davis’ input?

  • Feedback from teachers with concerns on how will they be protected
  • WTU sent out survey and had 45 teachers volunteer to serve on a task force. Concerns about getting sick and bringing back illness to their families; a lot of questions and concerns are driven by safety concerns
  • Goal is to go back to the classroom
    • Issues were around PD/use of platforms; online learning
    • Huge concern on digital divide; up to half students aren’t participating in digital learning
  • Can we use Canvas?  Series of videos being created
  • Is there a way for teachers to provide feedback to central offices about what they need?
    • All feedback going through principals
  • A lot of work can be done over the summer; need a lot of voices over the summer
  • It’s a big threat to DCPS if we transfer to long term distance learning – we have to make it safe, but need to think creatively about how to do this.
  • Need to make sure all health forms are in with the DCPS deadline to support healthy schools

Suzanne Wells Testimony – Joint Budget Oversight Hearing for Education Agencies

Committee of the Whole

Committee on Education

Joint Budget Oversight Hearing for all Education Agencies

June 4, 2020

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today at the joint budget oversight hearing for all education agencies.  My name is Suzanne Wells, and I’m the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO).  Our organization is a member of the Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities (C4DC).

As our city develops the FY21 budget while dealing with the economic impacts from covid-19, the W6PSPO is deeply appreciative of the commitment the city has to funding education, particularly our public schools.  We recognize the city has many serious needs, and reduced revenues make the choices of what to fund very difficult.  We know meeting these needs isn’t going to be easy. But both covid-19 and the national cries for racial justice show the important responsibility our city has to reimagine our public school system.  We must not let inertia or lack of will allow us to continue doing business as usual.  We must find ways to address deep needs while wisely using public funds.

Unfortunately, what stands out about the education budget for both DCPS and the charter sector is how much it is business as usual.  DC’s dual system of schools of by right and charter schools is costly, with duplicative offerings and dispersed enrollment resulting in many inadequately resourced schools.  This continues with the FY21 budget.  We can no longer afford the experiment of opening new schools to provide a lottery chance for families to choose a school. The unregulated growth of DC charters in the last 20 years has been out of proportion to DC’s student population. This has resulted in a 40% school closure rate, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars spent on schools that closed, and thousands of unfilled seats, including 10 new schools opening in 2020 that currently have a fraction of their seats filled. Each empty seat means resources are spread more thinly across existing schools.

Significant municipal savings could be realized by investing and growing our by-right public school system, and ensuring every student has a high-quality neighborhood school regardless of where they live. Encouraging increasing enrollment at DCPS schools of right will provide a return on investment in existing infrastructure, reduce per pupil charter school facility allowances, and save money budgeted for the Kids Ride Free program.  A commitment to our by-right public school system will begin to allow us to use our city’s education funds in more meaningful ways that support students.

There are several things we encourage the City to do to reimagine our public school system.  First is to more accurately project enrollment counts to reflect the fact that DCPS receives more students after the October enrollment count than they are funded for; thereby allowing DCPS to better serve the students it receives.  Second, enact a moratorium on the approval and opening of any DCPS or charter school for FY21, unless needed to ensure a DCPS by-right choice for families.   Third, is to stop the expansion of new campuses for existing charter schools for five years.  We also believe the City should commit to no school closures for FY21, thereby ensuring stability and reducing trauma.

We must reimagine the FY21 budget so there are no cuts for schools educating the highest percentages or numbers of our at-risk students. Investments in supports for these schools to address digital divide issues, food insecurity, lack of access to high-quality health care and behavioral support, and lack of special education services, while also ensuring those schools have equitable teacher training, experience, and retention.

One particular part of the Mayor’s proposed a budget that is glaring in its business as usual approach is the funding for technology.  The proposed budget sticks to DCPS’s pre covid-19 plan to provide computers to every student in grades 3-12 over three years.  SY20/21 will be year two of the three-year plan to provide a 1:1 device to student ratio.  This plan is totally inadequate for the new reality of education, in which learning will occur at home and in school. We must get to a 1:1 ratio this coming school year.  The Digital Equity in DC Education Coalition estimates it will take an approximately $11 million investment in computers and IT support in FY21 to get to the 1:1 ratio.  Without this investment, we risk having students whose families can’t provide them with computers fall further behind.  We also urge the city to establish a Digital Divide Coalition that can develop recommendations for providing wifi connectivity throughout the city.

Another area that needs to be reimagined is school libraries (Attachment A).  In the FY21 school level budgets, it appears 18 schools (primarily at east-of-the river schools) petitioned out their librarians, including Miner Elementary in Ward 6. These schools didn’t petition out their librarians because they think librarians aren’t important, rather they didn’t have the funding to support all the positions they need to provide their students with a well-rounded education.  We strongly encourage the DCPS budget be reimagined so that librarians are funded for every DCPS school.

We ask the Council to strike Subtitle B (Education Facility Colocation Amendment Act of 2020) from the Budget Support Act. Once school reopens, DCPS will need its entire school inventory to allow for social distancing as DCPS finds ways to bring back the most students it safely can.  Co-location is an important issue, and shouldn’t be slipped through in a budget amendment.  If the Council believes co-location is important, it should hold a public hearing on it in the future.

While it is not a budget issue, we strongly encourage DCPS to communicate with parents sooner rather than later about what the school schedule will be for the coming year.  For the most part, I have not heard parents express preferences for any particular schedule, but rather parents need to know as soon as possible what the schedule will be so they can begin planning for distance learning at home, before and after school options, and child care.

In closing, these difficult times require us not to continue doing business as usual.  The education budget must be reimagined in ways that will promote equity and ensure there is a high quality by-right education choice in all parts of the city.  We can and must reimagine the education budget.

Attachment A

DCPS Librarians

  1. Full-time certified librarian staffed in every DCPS school.
  2. Schools with over 300 students must employ a full-time librarian.
  3. Increased funding for print and e-books for general and special education populations.
  4. Timely delivery of funding for library books.  DCPS librarians did not receive the promised library books for their collections due to budget/purchase order delays.  This crippled and marginalized many programs last school year.
  5. Funding for general technology.  Some library programs do not have projectors, SMART Boards, laptops for self-checkout, laptops/desktops for student research.  Some are even struggling with the poor or lack of circulation desk computer to check out books through the online vendor, Follett Books.
  6. Confirm receipt of the Empowered Learners Initiative (ELI) computers – some schools have not given the librarian the DCPS issued ELI laptops designated for the librarians.  This is a citywide technology program and librarians were included in the original design and implementation.
  7. Funding for Makerspace activities and projects.  DCPS librarians have been charged to create Makerspace activities and projects for students, but unfortunately expected to pay for all supplies.
  8. Funding for office supplies.  Librarians need to be included in the general supply list for departments within a school rather than as teachers.  DCPS librarians have clerical supply needs that exceed beyond the yearly allotment of supply funds teachers receive each year.


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