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Sandra Moscoso Testimony – Public Oversight Roundtable on the Future of School Reform – March 19, 2018

I am Sandra Moscoso, a parent of students enrolled in Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, and School Without Walls. I am also a former BASIS DC parent. I share this with you, because like many D.C. families, mine is a “Cross-Sector” family.

Like most D.C. parents of school-aged children, my most important engagement with government is through my children’s schools.  For almost 12 years, 8 months out of each year, I have started most of my mornings thinking about homework, projects, DC1 cards, and, of course, lunches.

I trust their schools with not just their education, but their health and well-being. It is thanks to one of my son’s elementary school teachers that I discovered he needed glasses. My daughter’s school nurse has my number on speed dial, because my daughter insists on treating the school playground like an american ninja warrior set.

Like any D.C. parent, I want my children’s schools to have all of the resources they need to educate them and their peers in an environment with adequate staff, materials, and equipment, I want their school community to enjoy a facility that communicates respect for the individuals who spend 7 to 10 hours a day there.

I will add that like most D.C. parents, I don’t care if my children’s school are public or charter, so long as the above criteria are met.

Unfortunately, as you know, that basic criteria of access to adequate staff, materials, and facility are not consistently met. This has been the case over my 12 year tenure in D.C. schools.

I witness annual angst during budget season, as LSATs and Principals struggle to retain the staff and resources they need to educate their students, without forcing them into wieldy class sizes.

I have witnessed in both public and charter campuses where my children have gone to school, spontaneous waterfalls INSIDE of the rooms where family events were taking place. I cannot count the incidents that have been reported by my children and their schools.

I think it’s safe to say, that while your own tenure in the education committee may not be 12 years, the testimony you have heard from parents and community members during your time is consistent with what I describe. It may be difficult or exhausting to hear again, but trust me, it’s more exhausting to have to live with it.

I have been told by school officials like you, that our budget is limited, and we have to make do. I am willing to accept this, so long as it’s clear that our schools are in good hands and the best decisions are being made with the best information available.

I do not believe that this is the case. I see no vision for how to distribute resources among schools. And there can be no vision, so long as each year introduces new schools into the mix, without any overall strategy around direction or consideration of impact to existing schools, public and charter.

When the Deputy Mayor for Education kicked off the cross-sector task force in 2016, I hoped the key issues of opening, citing, and closing schools would be addressed.

It’s been two years of work by the task force, but I worry that these key issues which have such direct impact on resources available to our existing schools – ALL of our schools, where children sit in class right now, public and charter – will not be addressed.

I think we can agree this is not a political issue, but rather, it is a practical issue of using common sense.

A recent memo by 3 concerned task force members to the DME states “the PCSB currently does not need approval for opening, closing or siting schools. They have not indicated that they would relinquish that independence, or coordinate across sectors on opening, closing or siting decisions.”

What is the purpose of a cross-sector collaboration exercise that has no chance of affecting policy? And what will the Education Committee to do ensure this is addressed and resolved, and ensure that our city does not falsely claim victory and risk moving on from this unresolved conversation?

How can we begin to imagine the future of public school reform in D.C. without answering these questions.

I am hoping for leadership from the Education Committee on this. We desperately need a  vision for our city’s education strategy, along with – of course – transparency to enable all of us to ensure reform is working.

Without this, we will continue to be a city whose education conversations will be dominated by the scandal at hand.

Thank you for your time and attention.

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