Circulating now: a petition to the city council to reject the 1.5% increase in the per pupil funding for public schools that the mayor has proposed for FY18 and increase it to at least 3.5%–with additional demands of DCPS for transparency in the use of those additional funds; for starting the budget process in October with communities and schools; and for a capital plan by January to complete all DCPS modernizations in the next 8 years.
See background information and sign the petition here.
Perhaps the most amazing document in that background information is one created by Oyster-Adams LSAT co-chair Emily Mechner, growing out of testimony she gave before the council’s education committee during the recent budget hearings. Using her knowledge as a professional economist and understanding of school budgets through her work on the LSAT, Mechner notes how DC school budgets have recently not kept up with either inflation nor increasing costs in DCPS schools, such that what appear to be even large annual increases fail to cover what is actually needed:
“Schools with substantial populations of ELL, at risk, and SPED students need to use large shares of their resources to provide the targeted services that these populations require. What is left to serve the general education population leaves them with overcrowded classrooms and ever-tightening constraints that make it difficult to serve everyone’s needs. Core services are sometimes maintained by diverting at risk and other supplemental allocations to those functions. Schools that serve a less needy population and don’t get a lot of supplemental funds are forced to make cuts outright.”
In this time of budget strife, where the chancellor appears politically unable to act on behalf of DCPS in any way except by making lemonade out of rotten budgetary lemons, maybe it’s time for the council to align its stars and actually answer the question I and others asked at the DCPS budget hearing, which was:
Does DC have a black budget for creating new school seats every year without fiscal consequence?
Addressing this budgetary elephant in the room might be a bit more productive than the dead silence and averted eyes I got in response to my question above. After all, if we do indeed have a finite budget in our city–as I and many other parents have been told every time we advocate for our schools–then fiscally conscious decision makers among us will want to apply that principle everywhere, right?
Be sure to sign the petition and pass along to your neighbors.