Public Hearing for DC Schools FY16 Budget – Testimony by Suzanne Wells, CHPSPO

The following testimony was prepared by Suzanne Wells of CHPSPO. on March 16, 2015 at the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget for Public Schools in the District of Columbia organized by the Executive Office of the Mayor.

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Fiscal Year 2016 Budget for Public Schools in the District of Columbia

Suzanne Wells

Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization

March 16, 2016
Columbia Heights Education Campus
3101 16th St., NW

Thank you for the opportunity to provide my views on the FY16 funding for public schools in the District of Columbia.  This is an important hearing because important education policy decisions are made when our city makes decisions on how it allocates funding for education.

The Washington Post reported last Friday, March 13, on the DCPS plans for allocating its FY16 budget.  Overall, there are many good things in the budget.  Kaya Henderson has called next school year “the year of the high school.”  The extra investment in high schools is expected to provide more Advanced Placement courses, and more electives for students.  We support this much needed investment in high schools.

However, we must caution that the work on our middle schools is far from being done.  Middle schools across the city provide the bridge between our elementary and high schools.  DCPS has faced a persistent problem in retaining students after elementary school.  While there have been investments in past years in our middle schools, and modest gains in improvement, continued investments are needed.  Support similar to what is being provided next year for high schools is also needed at the middle school level in order for them to thrive.

We support DCPS’s plans to begin providing a per student funding formula for library collection development.  While we have not been able to closely examine the local school budgets, because neither those budgets nor any substantive budget guidance was made public even as of 2 pm today, we caution that the funding for library collection development should be a real increase to the local school budget, and should not come at the expense of other important items in the local school budget.

Because this hearing is on the funding for public schools, both the schools DCPS manages and the public charter schools, we must raise to you our deep concerns about the lack of comprehensive planning between DCPS and the Public Charter School Board PCSB) when new charter schools are opened.  I will use the remainder of my testimony to explain why this lack of planning should be of concern to both you and the taxpayers of the District of Columbia.

Last week, we learned a new charter middle school, Washington Global, has leased a building in Ward 6 that is less than 1,700 feet from Jefferson Middle School in order to start its International Middle Years Curriculum program. In Washington Global’s own charter school application, they targeted Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8 for locating their new school based on their own analysis of need.  In Ward 6, we have three middle schools, Stuart Hobson, Eliot-Hine and Jefferson along with Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan which is a city-wide school that DCPS expanded to go through middle school.  Stuart Hobson is at capacity, but both Eliot-Hine and Jefferson are under enrolled.  Both Eliot-Hine and Jefferson have been steadily improving.  Eliot-Hine is expected to become certified as an International Baccalaureate Middle Years program for the coming school year, and Jefferson is shifting to a college prep program.  Washington Global’s program essentially duplicates the program being offered at Eliot-Hine, and is substantially similar to what is being offered at Jefferson.

With the opening of the new Washington Global, taxpayers will now be paying for a new charter middle school when it essentially duplicates what is being offered at other middle schools in the city.  Taxpayers will be paying for the opening of a new charter middle school when we know that we have existing under enrolled middle schools.  Taxpayers will be paying for Washington Global to renovate the building they have leased while both Eliot-Hine and Jefferson will continue to wait for their Phase 1 modernizations that the taxpayers will eventually be asked to fund.

Because there is no planning between DCPS and the Public Charter School Board, our educational dollars are being spread thin.  Because there is no planning, our educational dollars are not being strategically used to support students.  The taxpayers, parents and students cannot fix the “no planning” problem.  It is up to the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor for Education, the DC Council, DCPS and the PCSB to fix the “no planning” problem, and we urge you to make this your highest priority.

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