Rallying For Our Schools: What You Can Do NOW

In this budget season, fraught as it always is, there are actions that all of us can take right now to help our schools.

1. To demand that our neighborhood schools are properly funded (please!), the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) is sponsoring a rally this Thursday April 25 at 4 pm at Freedom Plaza, across the street from our city hall, the Wilson Bldg. (1350 PA Ave. NW).

Here’s a flyer with more information–and here’s a petition to sign if you support the goal of ensuring our schools get the funding they need.

2. To ensure we have transparency in our schools, there are two bills being considered by our city council. Only one of the bills–the Public School Transparency Act–would ensure FOIA would apply to all our schools, including charters, which is in line with 39 states. (See it here.)

The other bill, sponsored by David Grosso, calls for budget transparency only in DCPS and is here.

(See here for more discussion of why FOIA is needed–and here and here for two local (and live!) radio programs about the legislation.)

Yet, right now, no hearing has been scheduled for either bill, which means either or both could die on the vine.

But YOU can contact the following people and demand a hearing be scheduled as soon as possible for both bills:

–Phil Mendelson, council chair: 202-724-8032; pmendelson@dccouncil.us
–LeKisha Jordan, committee of the whole advisor: 202-724-8137; ljordan@dccouncil.us
–David Grosso, education committee co-chair: 202-724-8105; dgrosso@dccouncil.us
–Akeem Anderson, education committee director: 202-724-8061; aanderson@dccouncil.us

3. To help facilitate discussions of transparency in government, the DC Open Government Coalition (DCOGC) has created a google group discussion forum, to discuss ideas and legislative input for ensuring we have the best possible city government we can have. If you have a gmail account, you can join at this link.

4. Consider taking finger to keyboard (or dial) and giving our elected representatives a few thoughts about the fact that our schools need decent budgets NOW.

Here are some talking points–with contact information of the council and mayor below:

–While saying there is an increase in funding for DCPS schools in the proposed budget for next school year, there actually is a net *decrease*.

–The result is that many schools are cutting staff and supplies.

–Part of the decrease is that security costs have been shifted onto individual school budgets for the first time.

–The schools hurt most by the current budget proposals are schools with the poorest students, in the poorest wards of our city.

–An analysis by WTU has shown that

***38 schools are losing at least 1 staff position.

***34 schools have losses of $200,000 or more, with almost two-thirds of those schools in wards 7 and 8, the wards with the poorest students.

***Three schools–Excel Academy, Ballou HS, and Anacostia HS–are losing 12-13 full-time positions.

–An analysis by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute has shown that 17 of the 20 schools facing 5% or more of a budget cut are in wards 7 and 8. See here and here.

Here’s who to call and write to about all of that:

Mayor Bowser: eom@dc.gov; muriel.bowser@dc.gov; 202-727-2643

At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds: abonds@dccouncil.us; 202-724-8064
At-Large Councilmember David Grosso: dgrosso@dccouncil.us; 202-724-8105
At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman: esilverman@dccouncil.us; 202-724-7772
At-Large Councilmember Robert C. White, Jr.: rwhite@dccouncil.us; 202-724-8174
Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau: bnadeau@dccouncil.us; 202-724-8181
Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans: jevans@dccouncil.us; 202-724-8058
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary M. Cheh: mcheh@dccouncil.us; 202-724-8062
Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon T. Todd: btodd@dccouncil.us; 202-724-8052
Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie: kmcduffie@dccouncil.us; 202-724-8028
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen: callen@dccouncil.us; 202-724-8072
Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent C. Gray: vgray@dccouncil.us; 202-724-8068
Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, Sr.: twhite@dccouncil.us; 202-724-8045

Council chair Phil Mendelson: pmendelson@dccouncil.us; 202-724-8032

5. Finally, if you need any more information about why all of this is so vital, read this document, compiled by the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO). It’s the most concise and informative outline I have seen thus far of why all of this matters–and why our voices are key. Read–and be inspired.

And do something.

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