C4DC Concerns And Questions On The DCPS FY23 Operating Budget

[Ed. Note: The following outline of questions and concerns regarding DCPS’s upcoming budget was created by citywide members of C4DC, the Coalition for DC Public Schools & Communities, which is dedicated to strengthening DCPS (and includes in its membership this blog). As you tune into the DCPS budget hearing that begins tonight at 6 pm, and as our DCPS schools prepare for budget season with a new funding model, be sure to use this excellent resource as a guide for important questions whose answers can help address the structural budget issues that all DCPS schools face every year.]

Transparency

  • DCPS received millions of dollars in American Recovery Plan Funds. The funds are to be distributed for 3 years. As part of the budget for this year and the next two we will need to see where they have gone and what the plan is going forward.
  • Prior to completion of the budget the comparison school by school between this current year and the potential budget for FY23 should be public along with transparent information about how many ET-15s [teachers] were in FY22 versus how many ET-15s can be purchased in FY23 with allocated budget.
  • The increase in position cost has to be taken into account. Allocating more money with higher costs and stating that school budgets were increased has been deceptive and not transparent.
  • School-based versus central office allocation of funding has not been transparent or agreed upon. Full transparency and an evaluation of how specifically students in schools are being served by central office employees should be required. For example, the average teacher cost now includes central costs that are passed along to the schools. 
  • Role of local school resources from central accounts, particularly those resources that some schools get and some don’t, or that schools get in variable numbers. How was this covered and how will these needs be covered going forward?
  • What are the maintenance, preventative maintenance, and repair costs for schools? Are funds transferred to DGS for all of these services? What is the amount?
  • Publicly available formulas for calculating the number of social workers and psychologists. Funding for social workers and psychologists that are identified for “special education” should be coded that way since they are allocated only for students receiving special education services.

Equity

  • If there are insufficient funds in the enrollment- and staffing-driven categories, schools will be forced to use the “at-risk” funds to cover those costs. We know from the DC Auditor’s 2019 report and yearly analysis by Mary Levy that schools with high percentages of “at-risk” students are especially short-changed and DCPS is using at-risk funds to cover a sizable amount of their general education expenses. This is inequitable and contributes to a “separate and unequal” public education system in DC. 
  • Class size, teacher/pupil ratio will impact the formula for enrollment. Planning periods for secondary schools are not now included in the calculation. DCPS allocated extra teachers in the CSM [comprehensive staffing model] but not through a formula. Schools have been required to offer AP classes and 20 electives. This is a red flag for inequity unless the formula for teacher allocation takes this into account.
  • Why doesn’t every school have programs? The programs have expanded and now seem to include NAF, IB CTE, School Enrichment Model (SEM) as well as STEAM, STEM, dual language, Arts Integration, at a minimum, and this does not include the specialty schools that have gotten extra funds.
  • Required positions: What are they? They are more than the principal and ELL and SPED staffing. This budget cycle, the Council reallocated funds from DCPS’s enrollment reserve to fund a full-time librarian at every school. The FY22 current allocation isn’t enough for elementary students to have one special each day. Number of class rotations needs to be considered. There are requirements for PE, but will World language, Art, and Music be part of every child’s education?  Some schools with more wealthy and active PTAs have been able to cover additional Assistant Principal positions, while other schools go without these and other needed positions. This is perpetuating inequities in public education in DC. The new school funding model should ensure that every school is able to pay for ALL required positions with its enrollment funds.
  • Staffing and support for students who are below grade level are not always captured by At Risk [funding]. 
  • Substitute teacher costs are covered partly by central ; however, when there is not coverage these funds come out of the school’s admin premium to cover teachers that cover a class during their planning period. This is uneven across schools.

Sustainability

  • The increase in position cost has to be taken into account so that DCPS is comparing apples to apples in figuring for required stability funding based on a year to year comparison.
  • Adequate funds for custodians based on building size as well as enrollment along with  adequate funding for soap, toilet paper, cleaning supplies. These are government buildings and our children.
  • How will funding for logistics coordinators and many other administrative functions going to be handled? Is there a cross check to ensure that all schools will be able to afford what they need?
  • Security funding: DCPS has initiated 18 pilot schools, which are using the security funds formerly from a contract and administered by MPD and DCPS. With DCPS in charge of security, how will funds for security be determined and allocated?

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