Unappetizing Food, Unsafe Passages, & Other Unsurprising DC School News

–A few days after the Post ran a story about the shortcomings of the safe passage program, a school safe passage worker was shot to death near Coolidge High school. At the same time, students have been repeatedly left in the lurch regarding mandated DC school buses not showing up on time (or at all; see here and here).

It is worth noting that DC’s deputy mayor for education, Paul Kihn, is in charge of BOTH programs. Appointed by the mayor and approved by the DC Council, the deputy mayor has been in the past spotted by me walking to and from the private school he is a parent at, in an area of DC with low crime rates, few multi-lane roads, all speed limits 25 MPH, and where every intersection is regulated by either traffic lights or 4-way stop signs (every one of which it’s likely local residents did not have to beg for).

–DCPS recently hit its 10,000th covid case. (But yeah, the pandemic is over . . . or something.)

–Federal covid money is being spent on private groups to provide high-impact tutoring in DC’s publicly funded schools, while DC is still waiting to hear about the efficacy of said tutoring.

–The DC council received a report from DCPS on its use of at risk funds, which showed that DCPS continues to use the money in ways the law does not intend.

In the meantime, DC education leaders continue to ignore how charters spend their at risk funds, despite the annual gifting of tens of millions to that sector for that purpose. The latest publicly available data on charter at risk expenditures, from 2021, is here. It shows that actual and projected deployment of at risk funds in DC charters was, uh, variable, with some of the funds intended (or actually spent) for AP and SAT test prep; Spanish instruction; a data manager; covid support staff; and other personnel (teachers, out of school time workers, social workers) and experiences for the benefit of all students.

Such variability in use of at risk funds is not new in our charters. But at least we know DCPS is bad.

–And speaking of council chair Phil Mendelson’s favorite bad guy:

Chairman Mendelson recently got upset by DCPS not (yet) providing budgets for schools, as the (new) law Mendelson championed requires. Given Mendelson’s and DCPS’s history in this, it is hard to know if genuine surprise and outrage by any DC official at DCPS’s infractions is even possible at this point.

–Later that same day (February 10), Mendelson waved about a few memorable exhibits of food in a hearing on the proposed DCPS food contract with SodexoMagic (listed as GAGA-2022-C-0259), the school system’s main food purveyor.

As with his (long) history regarding DCPS’s budgets, Mendelson has borne witness to a variety of outrages around DCPS food services, including disgusting food (see here and here) and disgusting conflicts of interest.

Not to mention that such privatized food services are expensive and ignore the recommendation years ago of the DC Auditor (who actually works for the council) to bring back food services in DCPS’s own school kitchens.

Expect the contract to be approved again as the alternative is—well, is there one at this point?

–And speaking of unhealthy:

The latest report on the Healthy Schools Act shows that there are fewer school gardens now than in the last 7 years; fewer students engaged in garden learning; schools still not meeting (even decreasing!) physical education and activity requirements as mandated by the act; and decreases in clinical counselor and social worker coverage in schools.

The report attributes many such declines to covid—without noting that the federal government gifted DC with hundreds of millions for precisely this purpose, only a fraction of which has thus far been spent.

The report also doesn’t get into how enforcement of the Healthy Schools Act has never been exactly a priority (or reality) since its passage in 2010.

(But hey, we at least have high-impact tutoring provided by private groups gifted federal covid money.)

–DCPS recently put out a draft technology plan based on the Digital Equity Act.

In the meantime, the DCPS technology advisory committee that the act calls for (comprised of individuals from DCPS as well as parents and others) appears to be either sequestered in a secure, undisclosed location free from high-floating balloons–or is now defunct. While one can hope for the former, the latter is, predictably, more likely.

–Charter schools want a piece of the money action that the DCPS teachers’ union (WTU) brought about with renewal of the WTU contract—naturally, without being required to use that money for charter teachers. The last time the DCPS contract was renewed, charters got some money, despite there being no requirement for such a distribution.

Read sense from C4DC on this subject—and expect capitulation by DC leaders, because when it comes to charters, DC’s all in (even to the contradictory point of embracing the imposition of Congress’s will).

–Finally, DCPS published a summary of its current strategic plan. For a view of how that’s going, see here. For a view of how that has gone in the past, see here. For a view of how that is going in the future, see here (or just wait for the closures, whichever comes first).

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