Thank you for the opportunity to testify this evening. My name is Suzanne Wells. I have a daughter in the 8th grade at Eliot-Hine Middle School, and I’m the president of the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization (CHPSPO).
For the past year, Grace Hu, a member of CHPSPO, has organized a coalition of parents from across the city to advocate for DCPS to develop a comprehensive technology plan that outlines how technology fits into its educational goals, how the technology will be purchased and maintained, and to provide funding in the FY20 budget to implement the plan. Computers are crucial today in classroom instruction, preparing students for advanced education and careers. Our schools have too few computers, computers that aren’t working, and/or computers that are so closely guarded they are primarily used for standardized testing.
In the past, school budgets have not been sufficient enough to allow the schools to purchase and maintain the computers they need. The PTAs at some schools have been able to step in and help support the school’s technology needs. The schools most likely to have significant technology challenges are likely to have high at-risk student populations and limited PTA capacity for raising funds. Until these challenges are addressed, we will continue to see negative impacts on students, especially those who also lack access to technology at home.
We need DCPS to place sufficient priority on technology, and be an advocate for technology funding in the Mayor’s budget. Any technology funding should not be taken from existing school budgets, which are already stretched thin.
We have heard DCPS has a $20 – $30 million shortfall for the current school year. While we do not know how all of the shortfall is being made up, we have heard reducing the per student funding formula for purchasing library books is one way it is being made up. I strongly encourage DCPS not to cut funding for libraries, and to be transparent about why there is a shortfall for this current school year. Please work with your teachers and principals before making decisions about what cuts are planned to make up for the shortfall.
Finally, as DCPS is developing the FY20 budget, I encourage you to give priority to funding the following:
1. Support to schools that receive one or two stars under the new OSSE school report. It is quite possible enrollment will drop at these schools in FY20 at a time when they most need funding stability and even increased funding. These schools will have great needs, and are likely to benefit from a coordinated city-wide support effort.
2. Support to middle schools in order to strengthen feeder patterns. This support may include enhanced art, music and club opportunities, and in particular a middle school to serve families in the city’s center; and
3. Expansion of language immersion programs at the elementary and middle school level.