The Time To Call The Council For Transparency In Our Schools Is NOW

[Ed. Note: The following call to action is from Cathy Reilly, one of the organizers of C4DC, a coalition of ward-based education councils and education organizations dedicated to the support of DCPS. The call is to ensure that in the school budgeting transparency bill (0239) being marked-up by our city council right now and voted on tomorrow, October 8, the Open Meetings Act applies to all schools and that DCPS report at-risk funds each October 1–as well as to support FOIA for all our publicly funded schools, teacher and student board representation, and salary transparency for all teachers, as outlined in a complementary bill 0199. The general DC council number is 202-724-8000, and the council website, with lists of council members and email contacts, is here.]

by Cathy Reilly

Time is very short on this. Last week, we sent a letter to the members of the city council expressing our support for greater transparency. [See below.] The hearing last week was on CM Allen’s bill 0199. The Council is posed to mark up and vote on CM Grosso’s bill tomorrow.

The [council] Education Committee (Chair Grosso, co-chair Mendelson, members Allen, White, White, and Bonds) will vote tomorrow, October 8, on an amended version of the bill CM Grosso has proposed. Thanks to [DC budget expert] Mary Levy, there is a redline [see here] of this bill [see here for the earlier, 9/25/19 version]. I would urge you to read the redline version.

There are two areas that have changed in this bill that cause concern on the transparency issue. The open meetings requirement for charter schools has been limited significantly in this version, so that a meeting–or portion of a meeting–can be closed for a wide number of reasons. The concern is that the Open Meetings Act exception in the Grosso bill–to exempt meetings to discuss “matters related to the operation of the charter school”–is far too broad.

Another provision is that by February 1 of each year, the DCPS chancellor shall make available to the public and submit to the council the final at risk funds spending plan of each school for the following year. By December 31 of each year the chancellor will make publicly available an annual report that explains how this funds were allocated. That December 31st deadline moves this reporting from the current October 1. [Ed. note: The 10/1 deadline made possible the auditor’s report on mis-use of DCPS at risk funds.]

CM Allen has a bill, 0199, that will require FOIA in all DC publicly funded schools, teacher and student board representation, and salary transparency for all teachers in all schools. This has been proposed as a complement to the Grosso bill. This bill is not being voted on yet, but voicing support for it now is important.
October 2, 2019 letter from C4DC:

Dear Members of the City Council and Mayor Bowser,

We the undersigned members of C4DC (Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities) support requiring a higher level of transparency and accountability for the Charter School sector. We believe that the Board of Trustees of a charter school should comply with the Freedom of Information Act of 1976 as well as the Open Meetings Act. We think it is an excellent idea for the Office of Open Government to provide training to members of charter school boards. More information should be publicly available on contracts in the charter schools sector that are over $25,000.00.

These requirements apply to all public agencies. The charter schools accept public tax dollars to fund the education of close to half of our children in DC and they should be held to the same standard of accountability as DCPS. Responsibility for public dollars requires compliance with safeguards like these that protect our democracy.

Ward 1 Education Council
Ward 3 Wilson Feeder Education Network
Ward 4 Education Alliance
Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO)
Ward 7 Education Council 21st Century School Fund
Empower Ed
In the Public Interest
Senior High Alliance of Parents Principals and Educators (S.H.A.P.P.E.)
Teaching for Change
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
Washington Teachers’ Union
Education Town Hall

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