Calling 240-342-4170 . . . And Other Recent DC Education Tidbits

–In announcing an at risk lottery preference for the new early childhood facility at the old Stevens school, DCPS has now made a moot point of the 2018 study (by lottery head Cat Peretti) of an at risk preference in the lottery. Never mind that the study determined that the at risk preference didn’t do very much—and not to mention that the percentage of at risk children around Stevens is a fraction of that around, say, Ferebee-Hope, which the mayor gave up for charter RFO. And not to mention that there seems to be no feeder pattern for families after Stevens. (Though to be sure, the chancellor’s priority of a great school in every neighborhood didn’t say anything about those great schools being actually connected to one another.)

–The status of the bill to ensure digital tech equity in DCPS appears uncertain, given that at its hearing on November 6, DCPS’s Corie Colgan testified (near the end, at about 3 hours and 27 minutes) that the DCPS technology plan is “complete”–to which education committee co-chair David Grosso responded that it sounded to him like DCPS has a technology plan well in the works and that the bill is “duplicative.” Despite plenty of public witnesses saying otherwise at the same hearing, as well as for years running before the hearing, education committee director Akeem Anderson told me the committee will continue to review testimony and make a determination of the bill’s survival “in the near future.” DCPS apparently promised there will be a “public-facing document” on digital equity as part of its council performance oversight hearing in the early spring.

–This month, the deputy mayor for education selected Afton Partners to do a study of the uniform per student funding formula (UPSFF). It’s important work, as a 2013 study determined that the UPSFF was inadequate, and it has never been funded to the level needed. The company’s website states that it works “with all public school types–districts and charter schools alike. We believe in families having the ability to choose the school that is best for their children, boundaried by adequate funding, operational efficiency, equitable school access and sufficient accountability.” Interesting that the $300,000 DC is paying for this study is going to a company whose first priority is apparently not education rights.

–Despite annual budget shortfalls in DCPS schools, and inequitable modernizations that have left most schools in wards 7 and 8 untouched by any significant capital work, the city’s chief financial officer recently determined that DC is wealthy enough to modernize everything publicly owned by 2028. Naturally, expect to hear more about how DCPS schools of right with low enrollments are “not sustainable” and how we cannot afford FOIA in all our publicly funded schools.

–The mayor has formed a partnership with a private organization, Landed, to help public school teachers buy housing in DC. The company is supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (cofounded by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook), which also supports the online learning system called Summit (which has been rather, well, interesting). Like other billionaires (Walton, Gates, Broad, to name a few), Zuckerberg is a big proponent of charter schools, which in DC have teachers that generally receive less pay than the unionized teachers at DCPS. Given DC’s hot real estate market, this program would theoretically bring in a tidy profit by taking 25% of any gain in the value of teachers’ housing when it’s sold in exchange for down payment loans. Although some are not happy with the company, the truth remains that rising real estate prices are making plenty of people in DC very rich.

–And speaking of predatory practices that affect DC teachers: a private organization is apparently contacting DCPS teachers with retirement packages that will make money for the company.

–And speaking of interesting forays by (presumably) private interests: In the last week or so some DC residents got an unsolicited phone call from 240-342-4170, which featured a (presumably private) firm asking questions about unused DC school buildings; whether charters have improved DC education; and even whether mayoral control is good. I was not one of the people who got a call–but out of curiosity, I decided to call that number to find out who was doing the calling. Alas! It rang normally, then a robotic voice asked me to leave a voicemail. But before I could do so, the robotic voice said the mailbox was full and there was an error. I bet! It’s like the good old days of 2017, when Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) embarked on a phone-banking effort to convince residents to push for test-heavy school ratings favored by education reformers. But the recent privately funded campaign to get DC’s public buildings into private hands seems to also be using kids during the school day.

–Finally, in the fastest gentrifying city in the nation, Mayor Bowser has put forth an affordable housing plan in a manner that, with little public input, skillfully pits groups who want affordable housing faster against groups who want more affordable housing in a better deal. This comes a year after Mayor Bowser announced a new high school with little public input, skillfully pitting people desperate for a school renovation against people desperate for a school of right in their neighborhood. Sad.

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