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DC Public Schools FY15 Budget Hearing Testimony by Elizabeth Bacon, CHCS

I am Elizabeth Bacon, and I’m here to represent the PTA and LSAT at the Capitol Hill Cluster School. 

We are a PK3 through 8th grade school with 1,300 students at three campuses — with steady enrollment, strong test scores, healthy vertical integration, and the ability to attract students from all over the city.

We are grateful for the increases in the recently released budget. It’s heartening to see investment in our school. This bump allowed Watkins Elementary to recover from severe staffing cuts last year, and add instructional aides that our PTA has paid for in the past two years. At Stuart-Hobson Middle School, we are also able to add staff and pay for popular 9th period extension classes that are now paid for by PTA.

But we don’t see any evidence of investments to help our highest need population. Our LSAT wasn’t given any data to show numbers of at-risk students, or guidance about how to allocate funds to make a difference for those students. Where is the additional support for at-risk kids, as intended by the Fair Funding Act? Is it lumped in with the large “per pupil minimum funding minimum” line item?

Transparency & Continuity

Even with increases, we still need transparency. Parents and the public deserve to be able to understand our school budgets.

And especially with increases, we need continuity. At the Cluster, we’ve seen dramatic swings in funding: down the past two years with an upswing this year. School leaders and parents want to know that DCPS is willing to stand behind and sustain these investments.

As part of the PTA leadership at the Cluster, I worked closely with the administration during the hectic PWP application process. The announcement came with so little specifics, but we kicked into gear, pulled together a survey, and scheduled a time for parent leaders and teachers to collaborate. All within 5 days. Is that really the best approach to make decisions about how to fund exciting and creative initiatives and programs? And, I wonder, do we really make students happier by infusing a large amount of restricted money for one year?

Out of School Time (OST)

On the topic of Out of School Time, despite the increases in our school budget, two teachers were cut from our aftercare budget. We understand this is due to “low attendance,” which we only learned about at budget time. According to DCPS, only 80 OST slots were being used out of the 100 allocated to us. So, funding for those 20 slots was scooped back.

This decision is not at all in line with our school’s needs. About 200 of our students are eligible for subsidized aftercare. Given that, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to open some of the unused OST slots to students who currently use the free Rec program – because of OST’s stronger emphasis on after school homework assistance?  Rather than just cut two teachers from our aftercare budget?

 

Summary

In summary, I’ll reiterate that even with the welcome increases in our budget, we still need transparency. Parents and the public deserve to be able to understand our school budgets.

————–

Elizabeth Bacon

Parent at the Capitol Hill Cluster School and Vice President of the Capitol Hill Cluster School PTA

418 7th Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002

Fiscal Year 2015 Budget for Public Schools in the District of Columbia

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cardozo Education Campus

1200 Clifton Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009

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