Heather Schoell Testimony – Deputy Mayor for Education Budget Oversight Hearing – March 29, 2019

Testimony of Heather Schoell,

Eastern Parent of Two/PTO Treasurer/LSAT Parent Rep

DME Budget Oversight Hearing

April 25, 2019

Each mayor and chancellor have asked for parent input, but what we say hasn’t seemed to help inform the overarching system. We have dilapidated and opulent schools, each year we have a per-pupil-based budget that isn’t enough to fill the most basic of teacher positions, and then we open additional schools that further dilute resources when there are empty seats in existing schools. It costs a lot to work ad hoc.

There’s no excuse for having children come out of elementary school still unable to read, weakening the academics of middle and high schools, and pretty much cementing a difficult path for their future. Let’s fix this.

Children who have lived through trauma, or who live it every day, are not set up for success by a budget that asks a principal to choose between a social worker and a music teacher or a psychologist and a science teacher. There’s no money for coaches or art projects. The reality is that this is what’s happening in the 1 and 2 star schools. These schools have the highest at-risk population, kids who require the most intervention academically, socially, and emotionally, and not enough in the budget to right-size their mental health providers. These schools aren’t raising $100k to make up for budget shortfalls, but these kids shouldn’t be less prepared because of it. (This, by the way, is why we have an achievement gap. People of means don’t go to the poor school with no soccer coach, taking their resources with them. Those resources buy influence and computers, which in turn allow students to be more proficient in online test-taking, which impacts star ratings, which attracts other parents of means, and around we go.) Something like 75% of people in prison have a mental condition – ADHD, for example. Can you imagine how different this city could be if our students received early intervention? By not labeling little boys

as bad or disruptive, but maybe have ADD or dysgraphia, we could help stop the pipeline to prison. Right-size mental health and equalize budgets.

Why can’t we further leverage District agencies’ expertise and come up with a way to incorporate them into schools? We have DBH for social/emotional services, DCPL to get the right books in school libraries, and DPR that could provide coaches for after-school sports. I applaud DCIAA for working with Providence Hospital last summer to provide student physicals, eliminating a barrier for students who wouldn’t otherwise have gotten clearance to play sports, which is tragic as sports are the only thing that get some kids to school. Let’s build on this efficiency and see how else we can work smart. If it’s a funding issue, then let’s figure it out.

With so many special ed students, we could create a launch pad, year 13, in the likeness of Melwood, which provides employment, job and life skills training, and support services to people of differing abilities – another opportunity for a partnership.

With all the compassion and intelligence at work here, we should be able to come up with clever ways to turn out students who are well prepared for life, for a healthier, more prosperous DC. Thank you.

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