Inequitable Funding In DCPS (Yes, It Is As Bad As You Feared)

Ed. Note: Below are graphs created by two DCPS parents, Betsy Wolf and Amber Gove, that tell a story of inequitable funding of DCPS schools along socioeconomic lines. This is in line with what many public witnesses testified about during the recent DCPS budget hearing on March 28, citing concerns with inadequate staffing and cutbacks to staff even in the face of enrollment increases, along with a more or less constant shortage of specialized staff, including mental health counselors; specials teachers; reading specialists; and special education coordinators.

The first two sets of graphs below (six total) use salary information from FY18 to outline how per pupil expenditures (for both total staff as well as instructional staff only) are not in alignment with at risk populations at DCPS elementary, middle, and high schools. These graphs were created by Betsy Wolf, president of the PTA at DCPS’s Amidon-Bowen Elementary. Wolf is working on concurrent analyses of class sizes at each DCPS school and non-personnel expenditures, to enrich and enlarge her analysis, which includes the text below with the graphs. (Seemingly in keeping with this, in the mayor’s proposed FY19 budget Amidon-Bowen–a school with a majority at-risk population–was cut by 5 employees.)

The last graph is a snapshot of one page of a spreadsheet that uses FY19 data to show little, if any, alignment of DCPS middle school at risk populations to non-personnel funding. The spreadsheet was created by Amber Gove, a parent and LSAT member at DCPS’s Maury Elementary. Noting how Deal’s funding appears as an outlier, Gove did what all of us hope our city leaders would always do: look at the numbers, recognize inequity, and then fix it. Check out the tabs on her spreadsheet that show what truly equitable funding might look like (and cost).

Stay tuned for more: in her testimony on March 28, budget analyst Mary Levy noted that as DCPS itself has shrunk, its central office has grown. Here is Levy’s spreadsheet showing that analysis. Levy also testified that her analysis of DCPS funding for next school year suggests that at risk funds in DCPS may be again used to fund core operations. DCPS has yet to reveal publicly its at risk funding allocations for next school year. In the meantime, be sure to check out Betsy Wolf’s additional graphs on DCPS inequity here

Elementary Schools:

Total PPEs ES

Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018

Middle Schools:

Total PPEs MS

Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018

High Schools:

Total PPEs HS

Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018

Betsy Wolf: “Teacher salaries, job titles, and school assignments on these graphs are from Mary Levy, with at-risk percentages pulled from The problem with using free or reduced-price meals is that many schools show 100%, which is not entirely accurate and then the graph is not as clear because all of the dots are on top of each other.

“I pulled student enrollment from Note that there is a one-year lag on the NCES data, but I’m assuming student enrollment does not dramatically change from one year to the next. There were a couple of exceptions, however. For schools that added a grade level and did have very different enrollment, I pulled enrollment from from the 2017-18 school year.

“I also merged with school-level PARCC data from last spring.

“For the elementary school analysis, I limited the schools to those serving grades PK-5. Schools that don’t have PK will have lower per pupil expenditures (PPEs) because PK classrooms are expensive, given the small class sizes. In fact, because high-poverty schools have more PK classrooms, the inequity is likely worse than what is shown in the graphs. Including schools that go through the 8th grade would complicate the interpretation, so they were not included in this analysis.

“I calculated the total PPEs on non-special education staff by summing all staff salaries and then dividing by the number of students in the school. I also calculated the instructional staff PPEs by including only instructional staff (i.e., school leadership, teachers, aides, instructional support personnel, etc.). The total PPEs would have extra things, like social workers, psychologists, athletic directors, custodians, English Language, admin., etc. I removed special education because that is a separate issue with its own regulations.

“There were some errors in the DCPS data that we could not resolve. More specifically, there were some cases when a teacher who was shared between two schools was not listed at two schools. We cleaned what we could.”

Elementary Schools:

Inst PPEs ES

Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018

Middle Schools:

Inst PPEs MS

Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018

High Schools:

Inst PPEs HS

Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018

Amber Gove: “There is a common misunderstanding that “equality” and “equity” are synonymous. While the two words are similar, the difference between them is critical. Equity is about ensuring that everyone has what they need to be successful, even if they begin from different starting points. Equality is about giving everyone the same thing. Equality works only if everyone needs the same help and starts from the same place. In our public education system, where we know this is not the case, we have a moral obligation to promote equity and ensure everyone has a fair shot at success–in many cases, that means providing more to those who need it most.”

[Ed. Note: The following image is pulled from a spreadsheet Gove created, comparing nonpersonnel funding and percentage of at risk students in DCPS middle schools.]


Credit: Amber Gove, 2018

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