Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I’m Danica Petroshius, parent of two at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan (CHML) and a Ward 6 resident.
We have been given a proposed FY18 budget by the Mayor that decreases funding for school modernizations. Chairman Grosso, you asked earlier this week where the outrage is about our continued push for tax cuts while shortchanging education. There is outrage about the lack of significant investment in school modernizations year after year.
The Deputy Mayor of Education summarized the arguments on Tuesday on why we can’t fix all schools that we hear over and over from our elected officials:
- We don’t have enough money.
- We have a debt cap.
- We don’t have enough contractors.
- We don’t have enough swing space.
- We can’t fund everyone – so if your school is funded, which school will you cut instead?
- And my favorite: Well, the order of the CIP is the order. We can’t change that.
We are outraged by those answers because they are barriers that city leaders have created — they are not real barriers. Our city leaders have made decisions that these barriers are more important than fixing all school buildings. The reality is that we have a surplus; we can leverage more debt; contractors will come – we can break down these barriers. Parents see right through these arguments – that they are just ways for our politicians to explain that they don’t have the will to make modernizations a priority.
Our kids see it too. They feel a city putting them last – a city that does not think their health, safety and education matter. CHML 3rd graders testified this morning and they shared with you that it makes them feel sad, mad and confused to walk into a great school community in a terrible building every day. And it causes them real problems of stress, hearing issues, injuries and missed opportunities.
You heard tonight from my fellow parents about the real problems of rampant pests, a middle school in a trailer, elevated noise levels, ongoing structural issues, lack of adequate space and more.
We talk a lot about taxation without representation as a city. As parents we ask: where is our representation right now, here? There is representation for tax breaks coming first. There is representation for professional athletic stadiums and practice facilities getting funded. There is representation for contractors building condos everywhere you look. There is representation for universal paid leave. Where is representation for fully funding schools and school modernizations?
We are outraged when we hear that our hard-spent income and sales tax dollars keep growing the city surplus, but there is no way to use some of it to finally fix our crumbling, inadequate buildings. Where is our representation? Taxation without representation feels very real to us right now.
We are doing our part. We are helping our children cope and learn in these dilapidated buildings. We raise money to support teacher professional development and classroom materials because DCPS won’t support us enough. We pay our taxes and spend money in DC businesses. We testify over and over. We continue to vote.
Now we ask you to do your part: make a significant investment that will quickly modernize all our schools. When you make your budget decisions, I hope you remember the students who testified this morning. Are you willing to condemn them to be educated in dilapidated buildings knowing that you could have done something to change it? We can and must do better. Thank you.