What A Year This Week Will Be: Upcoming Events

–DCPS has a survey out on technology for students and online learning. (See screenshots of each page here.) Please fill it out by July 31 if yours is a DCPS family.

Context: Earlier this year, in late May, the deputy mayor for education had a tech survey for DCPS that received 17,000 responses–without any ability for respondents to choose an all virtual option for distance learning (see my less-than-stellar screenshots of a few pages to see how that went).

Indeed, during the education hearing before the council last month, DCPS repeatedly assured the council that it had enough technology for all who needed it (which number is actually unknown). Then after her press conference the other week on re-opening DCPS, the mayor sent out this visual aid, saying that DCPS has enough devices for 40% of its students.

(Yeah, city leaders are now apparently endorsing the statement that 40% = 100%. Talk about a need for education!)

So here’s a news flash that apparently every DC education leader is unable to hear or read: distance learning is the FLOOR for next school year.

To be sure, this is not a liberal (or “liberal”) conspiracy.

It’s because regardless of how nicely students and teachers and families use masks and social distance or how well cleaned and ventilated schools are or even how much everyone really, REALLY wants schools to re-open in person for whatever reason, once someone in one of those buildings tests positive, absent a vaccine there is currently NO way to ensure everyone is safe inside it without fast and widespread testing and contact tracing of a sort that our entire country, including our own city, has turned its back on for the entirety of 2020.

This is also why the unanswered call of Digital Equity in DC Education, for $11 million for a 1:1 device ratio in DCPS, is ultimately such a betrayal–and why DCPS needed to do this survey back in April.

So complete the survey now–and hope and pray someone somewhere in DC is ensuring that the thousands of DC families who do NOT have internet access to complete this survey are also surveyed, too–somehow, somewhere.

–Annnnnd the Ward 7 education council has also done a tech survey! Happily, it is short (see my screen grab here) and to the point and, vitally, gets at more specific information than the DCPS survey while crossing over to more communities. You can complete it here.

–The DC council’s final vote on the budget support act will be tomorrow, Tuesday July 28. In advance of it, there are two items that the council needs to hear your voice on TODAY:

1. The budget support act contains language that would subject our charter schools to the Open Meetings Act while entirely exempting all meetings “about the operation of the school.” This not only undermines the entire purpose of open meetings, but is a sop for charter advocates, who have argued strenuously that the trade secrets of charters are more important than public interest. More specifically, it means that communities and families will not be part of critical discussions on a charter school’s budget, academic priorities, or decisions about closures or real estate.

2. The budget support act also contains language about charter co-locations in DCPS schools providing money directly to the affected DCPS schools. While some have said that this provides a way for schools to benefit from charter co-locations, that all is a smokescreen for enabling potential abuse of the mayor’s powers and promotion of charter co-location, which can harm DCPS schools.

Here’s why: DC code section 38-1831 already specifies that any payments for charter co-locations in DCPS facilities “shall be agreed upon by DCPS and the Charter School before relocation of any public charter school into a public school facility. The fee charged shall be added to the individual school’s budget.”

Including this amendment now, out of direct public sight with an apparently duplicative provision, means that a major change in school facility use will be enabled to proceed out of direct public sight, without any public accountability to prevent inequities and abuse (i.e., which charters? which DCPS schools? what basis for that choice? who chooses? what length of time for co-locations?, etc.), while incentivizing underenrolled DCPS schools, which often struggle with under-resourcing, to raise revenue through their physical assets.

Here are the folks to contact TODAY to change any and all of that:

Council chairman Phil Mendelson: pmendelson@dccouncil.us; ljordan@dccouncil.us, csetlow@dccouncil.us

At large council member David Grosso, dgrosso@dccouncil.us; aanderson@dccouncil.us

At large council member Robert White, rwhite@dccouncil.us; kwhitehouse@dccouncil.us, afowlkes@dccouncil.us

At large council member Anita Bonds, abonds@dccouncil.us; ikang@dccouncil.us; dmeadows@dccouncil.us

At large council member Elissa Silverman, esilverman@dccouncil.us; mbrennan@dccouncil.us; srosenamy@dccouncil.us

Ward 1 council member Brianne Nadeau, bnadeau@dccouncil.us; amansoor@dccouncil.us

Ward 2 council member Brooke Pinto, bpinto@dccouncil.us; ghulick@dccouncil.us, ehanson@dccouncil.us

Ward 3 council member Mary Cheh, mcheh@dccouncil.us; mporcello@dccouncil.us

Ward 4 council member Brandon Todd, btodd@dccouncil.us; mgeraldo@dccouncil.us

Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie, kmcduffie@dccouncil.us; bmcclure@dccouncil.us

Ward 6 council member Charles Allen, callen@dccouncil.us; lmarks@dccouncil.us

Ward 7 council member Vincent Gray, vgray@dccouncil.us; tnorflis@dccouncil.us

Ward 8 council member Trayon White, twhite@dccouncil.us; wlockridge@dccouncil.us; tgjackson@dccouncil.us

–Finally, on Friday, July 31 (yes, the same day our mayor will announce what SY20-21 will be for DCPS), the council will hold a hearing on at risk preference in charter schools.

There’s a good analysis of at risk preference in the lottery here.

The idea that one can ensure equity through the lottery is widespread in DC–which doesn’t, sadly, make it correct.

Imagine, for a moment, a neighborhood intersection where many pedestrians are repeatedly hit by cars trying to cross the street, because they need to access their shops or homes or schools because it’s, well, a neighborhood (I know, I know–such a crazy liberal concept).

Now imagine that instead of fixing the intersection so it’s safer for pedestrians to access their shops or homes or schools in their neighborhood, city officials instead encourage pedestrians to just not walk there–and to access different shops or homes or schools that have safer and nicer intersections elsewhere.

In fact, imagine city officials spending a lot of money NOT fixing that neighborhood intersection, but enacting all sorts of incentives to ensure pedestrians never, ever walk there–and then saying it’s all about safety and better choices!

That describes the current push for achieving school equity with the lottery: it’s a band-aid that appears to be a solution, serving a minority (the folks who participate in the lottery as well as the folks who are able to commute across town to other schools) at the direct expense of the majority, who attend their neighborhood schools of right that are repeatedly under-resourced in many communities outside of Ward 3.

(But yeah, choice! The only question is: whose?)

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