Our Education Budget: Walking AND Chewing Gum Edition!

So, let me get this straight:

Our mayor and nine of our thirteen councilmembers recently traveled to Las Vegas, to attend a glitzy convention to woo developers to our city.

Given that we have charter operators tossing around the better part of $10 million on speculative real estate in the last year alone, and an education reform lobbying outfit, Democrats for Education Reform, distributing hundreds of thousands in cold cash to our DC politicians at the same time, our city leaders’ trip seems a bit, erm, odd–especially as in that same time period, we have had an unrenovated DCPS school with active sewage flow on its floors (and not for the first time, either), schools going without nurses and mental health professionals, and crippling budget cuts to large DCPS comprehensive high schools, along with cuts to vital after school programming.

But maybe our leaders’ actions are about the kids, especially those in the poorest wards of the city?

Well, except that the mayor proposed tax cuts for the wealthiest among us (not most DC kids BTW)–which the education committee recommended delaying, not rescinding.

Oh, and except that nothing was changed by the education committee to ensure that the lion’s share of the more than $100 million bump-up infused into our school budgets for FY18 doesn’t go to charter schools–even when the basis of that allocation seemed odd to the committee (see page 63ff of the committee report).

Oh, and except for the fact that the education committee was put out (on page 79 of its report) by the charter board’s April audacity in rejecting the expansion request of DC Prep. According to the committee report, high test scores trump even a high suspension rate of kindergarteners when it comes to green-lighting new charter schools. (Like our new federal education secretary might say: Outcomes, baby, outcomes!)

Oh, and except for the fact that the education committee was pleased to announce in its report that funds had been purloined from other committees (courtesy of two councilmembers not on the education committee–whaa??) to support an increase in the per pupil funding amount to less than the recommended 3.5%. And that whatever amount that DCPS gets as an increase because of settlement of its (waaay too long unsettled) teachers’ contract will be matched by yet more funds to charter schools, because they have unionized teachers, too. (Oops–not!)

So, to summarize:

We here in DC have tax cuts for the wealthy; promotion of school choice and charter schools through a disproportionate share of public funding in the FY18 budget; loads of private cash for development of those schools and promotion of them; and only four council members (hey there, Elissa Silverman, Mary Cheh, Brianne Nadeau, and Charles Allen!) choosing to forgo a taxpayer-paid trip to attract developers to the city, all the while sewage flows on the floors of an unrenovated DCPS school that the education committee has allocated money to study in hopes of developing its land in a private/public partnership (yeah: see pages 37-8 of the education committee budget report).

Oh, and we are still not at the recommended increase of 3.5% to the per pupil funding formula, with imminent budget cuts for many schools–most of which educate poor kids–all the while we have unlimited funds to create new charter schools (more of which were recently approved).

Hmm: Seems Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have plenty of kindred spirits here in DC.

If you have not already, you may want to sign this petition to our city leaders just to ensure that things don’t get any worse.

And if you have signed it, please pass it on, as the council discusses the budget today and votes on it next week.

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