What’s Happening (And NOT Happening)

Here are a few things of interest for this week, as we await both an update on the budget situation (see C4DC’s recent letter to the mayor, demanding balancing of priorities for DCPS) as well as news of when (and/or if) school will reopen this school year.

–Starting this week, DCPS has 10 sites that offer groceries in addition to meals. Those ten sites listed in this chart are Columbia Heights Education Campus; Coolidge; Brookland Middle; Eastern; Kelly Miller; Kimball; Woodson; Anacostia; Ballou; and Stanton.

–Now that our jobless rate is unprecedented and our economy not robust, the DC budget situation is not great: We face an anticipated $607 million revenue shortfall in FY20 (our current budget), which will likely result in a $362 million budget shortfall for FY20. Since FY20 expenditures were budgeted to be $15.4 billion (eight zeroes!), the anticipated $607 million revenue shortfall is about 3.9% of those total expenditures–while the anticipated budget shortfall (of $362 million) is about 2.4% of those total expenditures.

About $1.87 billion was budgeted in FY20 for our public schools: $904 million for charters, $966 million for DCPS. Figuring a 2.4% decrease in that total suggests that the current, anticipated, budget shortfall could result in about $45 million lost across charters and DCPS for FY20–or about $23 million for DCPS and $22 million for charters.

But that is only if the mayor decides to spread the misery equally in all directions–which we don’t know yet.

We also don’t know what the revenue forecast is for FY21–and what this means for budgets going forward in FY21. What we DO know is that DCPS principals have been told that the budgets they approved with their communities are now pretty much toast. And with looming budget deadlines, it is likely that very few people in the public will have any knowledge, much less input, regarding those FY21 budgets.

(To be fair, back in the salad days of February the mayor issued a pocket budget guide–so maybe we just need to downgrade that pocket guide to a small pinhole?)

For ideas on what to advocate for in our school budgets, visit C4DC’s excellent website.

–While the chancellor has not been exactly front and center on releasing digital devices, he has ensured that some principals will be losing their jobs shortly.

Specifically, the principals from Kimball, Boone, Simon, and Burrville have been told to leave, apparently because they did not accept DCPS’s embrace of the Relay Graduate School of Education. That private teacher training school was created and embraced by ed reformers (notably, KIPP personnel) because it emphasizes test scores and the good old “no excuses” ideation that apparently is still firmly entrenched in some charters.

Short: If you are outraged by the firing of principals at schools with large percentages of at risk kids in an emergency that is stressing everyone, here’s an action plan.

–The chancellor also announced that DCPS has given up millions in Head Start funding for next school year. This relinquishment apparently revolves, per the chancellor’s FAQs, around safety issues. (See here and here for a few recent incidents, and here for a longer list of reports.) Yet, the chancellor also assured families that there will be no reduction in Head Start seats for SY20-21 and no reduction in services provided.

Unlike DC, the Head Start program has established standards for preK children (imagine!). Thus, by giving up the money, Chancellor Ferebee is also giving up Head Start’s standards for some of its youngest students.

Now, in the wake of obvious questions (uh, giving up millions in funding because of safety issues will result in staffing losses, so if there’s no reduction in seats, that means less staff for the same number of kids, so how is this safer?!?), one thing is clear: DCPS is walking away from providing Head Start-blessed programming now, with no guarantee of its return.

(Interestingly, one Head Start report, from September 2019, noted that principals “were not provided the guidance or support necessary to effectively implement the Head Start Program Performance Standards and ensure children’s safety.” Four of those principals have now been fired (see above).)

–In all the messaging we have had during this strange time, we have not had some basic questions answered about our schools by our education leaders.

Here’s my running (wish) list:

–When will school reopen–and on what basis is that target date formulated?
–What is the actual plan for school re-opening–or not re-opening?
–What are graduation requirements?
–How are kids with IEPs, 504s, and special education being supported (or not)?
–What are promotion requirements?
–What is the relationship between the work being given now toward graduation and promotion requirements?
–How will enrollment be handled for next year?
–When will enrollment be handled?
–How can the city mobilize coherently and effectively with wifi hotspots and PSAs (TV, newspaper, and radio)?
–Will community service requirements be waived? If not, what is the plan?
–What is the plan to ensure differentials of treatment in single grades from one school to the next are being addressed? (Some parents have reported that their students only have work on paper packets, while other parents report much more personalized approaches.)
–How are teachers being evaluated? Ditto for principals?

Feel free to add on–and let our education leaders know that before they decide to privatize digital devices in our schools or meet out of public view to decide budgets and paths forward, they need to get on this as one voice for ALL.

5 thoughts on “What’s Happening (And NOT Happening)

  1. OSSE has waived community service hours, and are trying to get PARCC waived if they have not already. I think IB tests are cancelled and AP are on-line. I may have gotten that reversed. OSSE has published one or two FAQS that should cover some of the special education questions.

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  2. Very informative! DCPS will not implement this rigid PD in other wards. The outcry would be magnified. For school leaders and teachers to have to stifle their creativity and knowledge to only use scripted protocols and “an economy of words” would cause every parent/teacher group in Ward 1,2,3 and some of 4 to rise up. WTU should be fighting harder than everyone else because if school leaders don’t protect the teachers from this repetitive so call PD it will soon become a part of IMPACT. Unfortunately, school leaders in Wards 7 & 8 are use to accepting and doing whatever they are told.

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  3. Too many times the school budget is sacrificed. In the next months just follow the money. We as residents of the District of Columbia pay more taxes than most states even Maryland and Virginia and get less services in education.

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