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Testimony of Suzanne Wells — Committee on Education DCPS Budget Hearing — April 27, 2017

 

 

My name is Suzanne Wells, and I am a parent of a 6th grader at Eliot-Hine Middle School.

In 2010, DCPS released its plan for the Ward 6 middle schools that included starting the process for Eliot-Hine Middle School to become an International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme.  After much hard work on the part of DCPS, the teachers and administrators at Eliot-Hine and the Ward 6 community, Eliot-Hine Middle School was authorized by the IB educational foundation to become an IB Middle Years Programme in November 2015.  Eliot-Hine is the only Title 1 middle school in DC that currently has the IB authorization.   The IB educational foundation is committed to providing underserved student populations with access to a high-quality international educational experience.  IB is one of many tools DCPS has to closing the achievement gap that exists in our city.

In SY17-18, Eliot-Hine is being forced to put its IB authorization in jeopardy because its inadequate budget does not allow it to meet the staffing requirements set out by both DCPS and the IB educational foundation.  Because of staffing decisions the Department of Behavioral Health is making to withdraw its full-time licensed clinical therapists from individual schools, Eliot-Hine must use its own budget to provide for a school counselor next year.  Staffing the school counselor position means Eliot-Hine will only be able to hire one World Language instructor.  That one instructor will only have time to be scheduled to teach the general education students, and not the special education students.  IB Middle Year requirements are for at least two world language teachers.  In addition, the school budget will only allow a half-time librarian to be hired, not a full-time librarian as required due to the unique role librarians play in working with the teachers and students to support collaborative inquiries.  This staffing model puts the long-sought IB Middle Years authorization at Eliot-Hine in jeopardy.  I request that the Council advocate for sufficient funding for Eliot-Hine to allow it to meet the IB staffing requirements.

As the Chancellor stated in his email to parents earlier this week, the most important thing for student success is having a high-quality teacher in the classroom. However, the decisions made by DCPS to underfund our school has forced the school to move towards having two half-time teaching positions next year.  In trying to understand the impact this decision will have on the quality of our teachers, we were informed that while it is a “common practice” within DCPS for teachers to split time at two schools, the number of highly-effective teachers who are part-time in multiple schools could not be reported because the n-size was too small.

Of course, Eliot-Hine’s budget is driven by its enrollment which brings me to a larger concern with the Mayor’s FY18 education budget.  While there is much talk of the $105 million additional dollars being added to the budget for education, there is far too little talk about the choices being made regarding how to distribute those dollars between DCPS and the public charter schools.  The mayor decided to direct 80% of the additional $105 million to the charters sector largely due to a projected enrollment increase of over 3,400 students, and only 20% of the dollars to DCPS because of a projected enrollment increase of only 226 students.  It would take more than three minutes to explain the very serious concerns with the direction our elected leaders are taking to lead our city away from a by-right, municipally run public school system.  I ask the Council to find ways within the FY18 budget to invest in the DCPS schools that need it the most, ensure that all parts of our city have by-right schools, and find ways to end putting parents at the mercy of a lottery system as they search for quality schools for their children.

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