Mary Levy Testimony – COW Hearing: DCPS Initial School Level Budgets FY22 – April 2, 2021

Mary Levy Testimony

Committee of the Whole Public Roundtable on DCPS Initial School Level Budgets

April 2, 2021, 9:30am

As an education finance lawyer, a budget and policy analyst, and a DCPS parent, I have studied DCPS local school and overall budgets for 40 years.  When DCPS posted proposed local school budgets for next year, a small group of us downloaded and converted them to spreadsheet.  I recently completed systemwide analysis of these budgets.  Preliminary results (numbers may change for a few schools) are that 49 of 115 schools will lose dollar funding and 38 will lose allocated positions. One quarter of the former have very small or no enrollment loss. As in previous years, school buying power is down, by 2.2% for FY 2022. The average increase in dollars is 1.2% while the average teacher cost is rising 1.5%, administrators over 2%, aides 12%, office staff over 13%.  

Changes in some crucial categories:

The effects of all this differ among schools. 

  • Forty-nine schools are actually losing money compared with their last year’s final budgets, while 66 are gaining, though most are gaining little.  Thirty-eight schools are losing allocated positions.  Because additional positions are funded through undesignated funds, such as Chancellor’s Assistance, Per Pupil Funding Minimum, Stabilization, and Title I, the first three of which vary by school from year to year, the total number of staff losses may be higher.
  • When DCPS diverts 40% of at-risk money into basic services, it does not take it evenly even among schools with similar demographics, or from the same school from year to year.
  • On top of Comprehensive Staffing Model basic program and at-risk funds, DCPS awards  separate amounts of money to selected schools for special programs and undesignated purposes.  The basis on which these are selected is not explained and can vary from year to year.  [See Preliminary Analysis, pdf DetailxSch]
  • CSM cutoffs of 300 or 400 for staff allocations create contrasts between schools with projected enrollments close to the cutoffs.  For example, a school of 295 has higher pupil staff ratios than one of 305.

Due to all of the above factors, per pupil funding for general education varies greatly among schools.  “General education” is the remainder when at-risk, special education, ELL and federal funding are filtered out.  One would expect general education per pupil funding among schools with the same grade levels to be similar except for adjustments for size, since small schools have higher costs.  Yet some schools of similar size have general education per pupil funding differing by many hundreds of dollars.  [See Preliminary Analysis, pdf DetailxSch] In considering remedial measures, these factors mean that schools do not all start in the same place.  Some have less money per pupil than others for the same services due to arbitrary cutoffs and allocation practices that at least appear to be random. 

Three significant factors drive the overall budget situation this year:

  1. Schools are, as usual, losing buying power because costs for almost all staff are up, as is inflation for non-staff costs.  Every school has lost buying power, with small variations depending on their mix of staff positions and non-personnel funding.  Overall, school buying power is down by 2.2%.  [See Preliminary Analysis, FY22 at FY21 Cost]
  • Enrollment projections for next year are down compared to those on which this year’s budgets were based.  This is a hangover from a decrease in actual enrollment this year, at least actual enrollment as of October 5.  No information is available on how many returned or transferred in after that date.  Projections are disproportionately down for at-risk students, which means that their schools are losing money disproportionately. [See Preliminary Analysis, FY21&FY22 web]
  • As happens every year DCPS diverts about 40% of the money designated by law for services to at-risk students to pay for basic program services available to all students.  This is particularly unfair because schools with low numbers of at-risk students have little at-risk money to divert, while schools with many at-risk students have a lot syphoned off, leaving at-risk students without the kinds of services to which they are legally entitled.  [See Preliminary Analysis, pdf DetailxSch]

Whereas this year’s budgets are pre-pandemic budgets, next year’s are non-pandemic budgets.  Although federal Covid funding will be available, DCPS does not permit it to be used to save staff positions.  It may be used for non-personal items such as technology and staff paid by the hour, but not to retain a school’s current staff.

Finally, as of mid-March, 2021, we do not know the Final Initial Allocations to schools, nor how much money DCPS will have in total.  The amount in central accounts will be announced only when the Mayor releases her proposed budget in late April.  For many years I have categorized DCPS employees by a consistent set of definitions based on whether or not they serve students directly, which is what most of the public want to know when they ask about central office or “administration.”[1]  The number of central office employees has decreased a little recently but is still much higher than in years much earlier when enrollment was much higher. The number of central office full-time equivalent staff performing the same functions that DCPS now performs rose from 516 in 1981, when we had 95,000 students to 626 in 2007, when we had 52,000, and as of last month to 701 for 50,000.  They include 4 Executive Directors, 9 Chiefs, 24 Deputy Chiefs, 75 Directors, 165 Managers and 41 Analysts.  The system needs some number of these officials, and those who are good are worth a great deal.  But do we really need 35 Executive Directors, Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs?  75 Directors? 165 Managers?  Could some of these positions not be redirected to retain local school staff?

[1] The source is personnel department lists of DCPS employees, obtained by FOIA or from submissions to the D.C. Board of Education (before FY 2008) or to the DC Council (since FY 2008), based on office of employment, program codes, job title, purpose of applicable grant funding, and DCPS website descriptions.  Employees performing functions subsequently transferred or contracted out are excluded in the earlier year calculations.

Ward 1 Education Council Testimony – COW Hearing: DCPS Initial School Level Budgets FY22 – April 2, 2021

On Behalf of the Ward 1 Education Council

Committee of the Whole Public Roundtable on DCPS Initial School Level Budgets

April 2, 2021, 9:30am

Good morning Chairman and Councilmembers. My name is Alexandra Simbana, a parent of a 3rd grader at Cleveland Elementary, a member of my school’s LSAT and member of the Ward 1 Education Council. 

As always schools are in flux and in a state of uncertainty during Term 3 and into Term 4; dividing time and resources over their unknown future. A universal feeling of not knowing what you will lose and how you will still meet the needs of your students in the next year is not unusual but THIS YEAR is a burden the schools, staff and families should not need to balance, when so much Federal funding is available to help stabilize the overwhelming needs which have only worsened during the pandemic. The city must allow DCPS schools to use federal and other pandemic special funding on staff.  By not doing so, we are asking schools to cut school-based staff who already have strong relationships with students, while hiring for temporary programs which are less effective, all in the hope of makeup for the loss of school-based staff on top of the trauma caused by the pandemic.

As one community member states: “We don’t know exactly what we will lose in this budget cycle and schools try to retain staff but that comes at the cost of other resources like professional development, classroom materials, and extracurricular programming. DCPS can claim budgets are rising when functionally they are not due to increased costs.”  

While all our Ward 1 schools are unique and they have varying needs, each community has significantly varied ability to cover school priorities outside of school budget allotments. The financial costs of what is needed to supply additional personnel support is too much for ANY school PTA/PTO to cover on their own and that approach would only continue the inequities between schools who have funds and those who don’t. 

In Ward 1 four of our schools will experience a loss of funding ranging from $223k – $437K. Most of our schools are known for their high concentration of English Language Learning students within the City. The pandemic has hit their community particularly hard and all our schools anticipate a greater need to service these students. Given the populations at our schools, most will not be able to mitigate even a fraction of the losses to their school budgets to help support the students who will require more assistance when returning to class in the Fall. And yet, we hear reports of funding cuts across the City to ELL positions. Given the vulnerability of this community, it is extremely irresponsible and inequitable to remove the support they will need.  As we all have experienced in the past, once positions are removed from the school budgets they very rarely are returned the next year. 

Cardozo which is set to lose $437.1K in this budget cycle. This school which serves as a combined middle school and high school in addition to their International Academy has an 80% At-risk population. Cardozo is also a school who will more than likely see the greatest number of additional students arrive for SY21-22 because of the population and programming they offer. How can we realistically expect these schools to service their students with such high impact changes?

For all our Ward 1 schools maintaining staff positions for janitorial staff, security personnel and support staff positions will be critical in any phased in reopening plan which will require more staff coverage per smaller cohort units, ensuring adherence to safety protocols and mandatory cleaning regimes to ensure pandemic protocols are followed as more students return to in person learning in the coming months. Just as important to maintaining physical health will be to provide emotional support and resources which is why we ask that school staff be kept whole at ALL our schools. 

The school which will have significant cuts again this year is CHEC. They will lose $-265.3K in this budget cycle.For the last several years CHEC has experienced a significant reduction in their school budget. In SY 2019, they already suffered a $250k reduction in budget but come the Fall they had an additional 119 students to service. A CHEC LSAT member said: There is no mechanism to correct these budget miscalculations and again our DCPS schools, staff and students are made to pay the price [of] being under resourced. The staff reductions implications to this school will further traumatize this school community. Once these budgets are approved there will be no recourse for these schools and they will again need to service their larger school population with less resources

The CHEC budget is of great concern, because they’re losing four positions, and their funding is the lowest per pupil based on enrollment in the City.  The At-Risk funds are being designated for general education purposes.  According to the preliminary budget analysis by the Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities, per pupil funding for “general education” varies greatly among schools.  General education is the remainder when at-risk, special education, ELL and federal funding are filtered out.  One would expect general education per pupil funding among schools with the same grade levels to be similar except for adjustments for size, since small schools have higher costs.  Yet some schools of similar size have general education per pupil funding differing by many hundreds of dollars.  This has substantial repercussions for CHEC because of its high number of at-risk, special education and ELL students.  Among DCPS high schools, CHEC consistently receives the lowest amount of discretionary funding (Specialty Funds, Stabilization Funds, Chancellor’s Budget Support, and Per Pupil Minimum Payment), can this disparity be reversed? How can the adverse impacts of these inequities be mitigated for all the Ward 1 schools whose student populations include significant ELL, special needs and homeless populations? 

There are also many questions about the criteria or method used to derive the additional stimulus funding allotments. During the education hearings DCPS was asked for this information and no response was ever provided. 

Our students are paying attention and they see how the system is not prioritizing their needs. As a student leader says, “Why do the decisions (sic) about the budget have to lead to schools having to cut staff? We all know that next year will be all about recovery. Students will need every support accessible to them to feel welcomed, feel like they belong, feel supported, [and] have someone to talk to, feel less stressed, and just recover! We can’t justify or say that the summer activities are going to be (sic) enough. We can’t cut off staff and say that you have been given the choice to add another psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist and [make] it seem right. We can’t say that we want the best for our students when we know they need every resource [available] to have a transition as smooth and supportive as possible when we are continuing to do the opposite.”

Our school budgets must reflect our value of the work schools do, the work and learning we ask students to do academically and socially as the mechanism to become members of our community after they graduate. Unless we prioritize Federal and surplus local funds, we are merely giving lip service to the idea that education matters or that every day counts.

Thank you.  

BANCROFT: Unaffected

BRUCE MONROE: Unaffected

CLEVELAND: Losing $-228K in this budget

HD COOKE: Unaffected

MARIE REED: Unaffected

TUBMAN: Losing $-223.3K in this budget.

ADAMS MS: Unknown due to combined Oyster budget

CARDOZO: Losing $-437.1K in this budget

CHEC:Losing $-265.3K in this budget. 

BANNEKER HS: Unaffected

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.

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