Bilingual Revolution in DC on 10/20-22

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization members,

The DC Language Immersion Project will be hosting a discussion in Ward 6 on Sunday, October 22, at 10 am, at 1339 East Capitol St., SE, with Fabrice Jaumont, who is the father of NYC’s bilingual revolution. It’s an opportunity to talk with other parents who are interested in bilingual education, and learn how communities have created high-quality bilingual programs. Discussions will be held in all eight wards October 21 – 22, along with a kick-off event on October 20. You can register for the Ward 6 event, and find a complete listing of the discussions that will be happening across the city at

Suzanne Wells

On Thursday, October 12, 2017 8:07 PM, Suzanne Wells <> wrote:

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization members,

The DC Language Immersion Project will be hosting a discussion in Ward 6 on Sunday, October 22, at 10 am with Fabrice Jaumont, who is the father of NYC’s bilingual revolution. It’s an opportunity to talk with other parents who are interested in bilingual education, and learn how communities have created high-quality bilingual programs. Discussions will be held in all eight wards October 21 – 22, along with a kick-off event on October 20. Please share with your school communities the information below about registering for these discussions.

Suzanne Wells

Want a bilingual program in your community? Join fellow parents at a venue near you and learn how to start a “Bilingual Revolution in DC” on 10/20-22


Bilingual Revolution in DC on 10/20-22

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization members,

The DC Language Immersion Project will be hosting a discussion in Ward 6 on Sunday, October 22, at 10 am with Fabrice Jaumont, who is the father of NYC’s bilingual revolution. It’s an opportunity to talk with other parents who are interested in bilingual education, and learn how communities have created high-quality bilingual programs. Discussions will be held in all eight wards October 21 – 22, along with a kick-off event on October 20. Please share with your school communities the information below about registering for these discussions.

Suzanne Wells

Want a bilingual program in your community? Join fellow parents at a venue near you and learn how to start a “Bilingual Revolution in DC” on 10/20-22


Testimony of Suzanne Wells – Committee on Education DCPS Strategic Plan 2017-2022 Hearing – September 21, 2017

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today at the Roundtable on the District of Columbia Public Schools’ Strategic Plan for 2017 – 2022. I am going to focus my remarks on Goal 6, and the goal of having 54,000 students attend DCPS schools by 2022.

Every year since 1996, after the passage of the School Reform Act that established the independent Public Charter School Board (PCSB), the percent of students attending our municipally-run DC public schools has fallen when compared with the total number of students attending both DCPS and charter schools.  In SY 2016/17, 56% or approximately 47,000 of the students between the ages of 3 through 17 attending public schools attended DC public schools and 44% attended charter schools.

When repeated requests to DCPS to understand how they arrived at the 54,000 number went unanswered, I turned to the 21st Century School Fund to get data on the projected growth in the number of students expected to attend public schools in DC in 2022.  It is estimated there will be 96,000 students between the ages of 3 to 17 attending the public schools in DC in 2022.  The goal of 54,000 students attending DCPS schools in 2022 means that approximately 56% of the total number of students attending public schools will be enrolled in DCPS.  The same percentage that we have today.

On one hand, you could look at the goal of 54,000 students enrolling in DCPS in 2022 being a good thing in terms of stopping the decline that has occurred over the last twenty years.  But the number 54,000 raises some questions.

  • First, who decided that the split between DCPS and the charter sector should be 56% vs. 44%? Were these decisions made by our elected and appointed education officials with no public input?
  • Second, every other goal in the DCPS strategic plan seeks to show growth and improvement. For example, DCPS wants to double the percent of students who are college and career ready and see 100% of the K – 2 students reading on or above grade level.  Why does the strategic plan want to tread water when it comes to enrollment, and just keep the same percentage of students attending DCPS?
  • Third, why have public comments encouraging DCPS to win back families who previously left to attend charter schools been ignored? In January 2017, a letter was sent to the Mayor that was signed by all eight ward education councils that said “growing the enrollment of the students in the DCPS’s neighborhood public schools is the most important performance evaluation criterion to establish for … [the] chancellor.”  The letter suggested the enrollment should grow to 65,000 students by 2020 or 9000 more students than is in the strategic plan.

The charter school sector has a much more robust plan for growth.  At the June 19, 2017, PCSB meeting the board voted to approve enrollment increases to allow four existing charter schools to open up five new campuses including three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school.  When you read the enrollment ceiling increase requests written by the charter schools, you understand that they all have strategic plans that seek to grow their enrollment.  If DCPS wants to stay competitive in this school choice environment our city has embraced, it should have a strategic plan that seeks to win back families to our municipally-run schools rather than one that seeks to tread water.  A robust growth goal will demonstrate DCPS’ success in lifting up low-performing schools and meeting the educational needs of all students, and that our city values its publicly managed, by-right neighborhood school system.







CHPSPO Meeting Notes – July 19, 2017

CHPSPO Meeting Notes – July 19, 2017

Jefferson Academy

 801 7th Street, SW

6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.


Feed-the Feeder – Bruce DarConte, President Near Southeast Community Partners

Goal of Feed-the-Feeder effort for Jefferson Academy has been to raise teacher morale, and help teachers get to know each other.

Two Feed-the-Feeder events have been held at Agua 301 with dinner and an open bar.  Teachers and administrators from Jefferson Academy, and its feeder schools (Amidon-Bowen, Van Ness, Tyler and Brent) were invited.  Councilmembers Robert White and Silverman attended the first event.  Councilmember Mendelson and Bonds along with the DME attended the second event (275 people came).  Teachers were encouraged to mingle with teachers and principals from schools other than their own

The Near Southeast Community Partners has been administering the CSX Community Mitigation Fund, and recently gave Amidon-Bowen $15K for a new sign outside the school, and Tyler $15K for technology.  The CSX Mitigation Fund covers ANC 6B and 6D.  There are six phases of funding planned (five phases have been awarded)

Starting to plan the third Feed-the-Feeder event scheduled for early November.  Partnering with Companies for Causes for the next event.  Plan to have a principal roundtable, and have a discussion on vertical integration, closing the achievement gap, and keeping students in the feeder pattern.  Planning for the next event to include the Jefferson Academy and Eliot-Hine Middle School feeder patterns, and to also include Eastern High School.

A Learning and Development Committee has been formed.

Discussed that in Ward 3 the Deal principal goes to each of the feeder schools, and takes students who graduated from the feeder school and are now at Deal.  The Capitol Hill Cluster School works to ease the transition from Watkins to Stuart Hobson; more outreach is needed for Ludlow-Taylor and J.O. Wilson that feed into Stuart Hobson.

Discussed a desire to see DCPS do more to institutionalize efforts to promote staying within the feeder pattern.

Wilson Feeder Pattern Community Working Group, Brian Doyle, Ward 3 Wilson Feeder Education Network (W3EdNet)

Brian Doyle shared that almost all the schools in the Wilson High School feeder pattern are at or above capacity, and even conservative projections show overcrowding will get substantially worse in the coming years.  Five schools currently have enrollments over 100% of the total capacity (Eaton ES, Hyde-Addison ES, Janney ES, Mann ES and Wilson HS).

DCPS convened an advisory group with representatives from each school in the feeder group, the Ward 3 Education Network, the Ward 3 school board representative, and a representative from Councilmember Cheh’s office.  The advisory group is planning to meet monthly through October/November 2017. Advisory group is broken into three subcommittees (facilities, enrollment policies and programming).  DCPS is conducting a community survey.  Expect to make recommendations in November/December in time for the FY19 budget and the Master Facilities Plan.

Many ideas have been raised so far:

  • Reopen old Hardy School that currently houses the Lab School
  • Look for additional space or partnerships, e.g., at UDC or Fannie Mae
  • Make more use of existing space, e.g., year-round use, overlapping schedules, use space at the renovated Duke Ellington
  • Combine Deal and Hardy Middle Schools
  • Dual feeder rights

It was noted that many of the Ward 3 schools have sizeable number of out-of-boundary students, e.g., Hardy MS is 76% out-of-boundary students in SY16/17, Eaton 45% out-of-boundary.  DCPS is not considering removing schools from the feeder pattern, discontinuing out of boundary feeder rights, or widely redrawing boundaries.

Challenges facing DCPS are:

  • Limited renovation funds, and renovations needs across the city
  • DCPS has substantial existing capacity in other Wards
  • Most solutions are imperfect
  • Wilson feeder parents reluctant to try options outside of the feeder

You can follow the Ward 3 Wilson Feeder Pattern Community Working Group on the DC Planning Blog.


Out of Bounds Percentages in Wilson Feeder Schools-2

Overcrowding in Wilson High school feeder Pattern.CHPSPO.20170719

CHPSPO Officer Nominations (Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Walk-to-School Coordinator, Bike-to-School Coordinator)

 During the month of August, CHPSPO will seek nominations to fill its officer positions.  Information will be sent out about the responsibilities of each position, and people are encouraged to volunteer for the different positions.  Expect to hold elections in September

Walk-to-School Day Volunteers

Walk-to-School Day is October 4.  If you would like to volunteer to help organize this year’s Walk-to-School Day, please contact Suzanne Wells at  Many hands make light work!

Next CHPSPO Meeting: August 15, 2017

Upcoming Events

State Board of Education

Application period for the ESSA Task Force has been extended to noon on July 24th.

Cross Sector Collaboration Task Force

Tuesday, July 25, Location TBD

Walk-to-School Day

Wednesday, October 4, Lincoln Park

Visit CHPSPO on the web at


Testimony of Sarah Livingston – Committee on Education Public Charter School Board Budget Hearing – May 4, 2017

I’m Sarah Livingston, one of DC’s voting, taxpaying citizens from Ward 6.

This past Saturday, I saw a film called “A Backpack Full of Cash” that documents some of the ways that public education in our country is being privatized including by charter schools. It does a great job of showing, in Philadelphia for example, how the more a city spends for charter schools the less it has for the public schools and the dire consequences that follow.

So far we haven’t had that problem in DC because we’ve had enough money to maintain the funding for DCPS while also paying for a growing number of charter schools. There are however two things in the FY 18 budget that deeply concern me.

First, the budget proposes a change in the charter school expenditure of 11.4% over FY 17 while the change for DCPS is 2.7%. That is a substantial difference amounting to $82.8 million of the $105 million increase for education going to charter schools. The lack of balance there is very concerning.

In addition, we know that in some cases, DCPS has used its at-risk funds for things that are supposed to be covered by the per pupil funds. Is that an indication that over the past three years, DCPS has already been in a position of having to rob Peter to pay Paul? Is the 1.5% increase in the per pupil level rather than the 2.2 % needed to cover inflation related to the 2.2 % increase in the charter school facilities allotment?

My second concern comes from looking at what the budget proposes to address our homeless crisis relative to the budget for charter schools. By my calculation, all the homeless measures together total about $365.1 million. The budget for charter schools is $806.5 million. That’s more than twice as much money as what we will spend to get our fellow citizens and their children into safe and stable homes. (Table of figures attached.)

While the budget as a whole is balanced in terms of dollars and cents, it is also hugely out of balance if we value children living in homes more than we do having charter schools and I do. Food, shelter and clothing are basic human needs for survival. Charter schools are not.

There could be many causes for this imbalance but the one I see most clearly is the law that gave the DC government the authority to grant charters for schools back in 1995 when things were very, very different. Though it’s seen some changes over the years, I think it is inadequate to govern our current public education reality. There’s no requirement that the board take into consideration anything other than the specific application before it, such as does DC as a whole need or want another charter school? The law gives it to the applicant to determine whether there is a need or not. There is nothing in the law to prevent anyone from anywhere coming here, and if the Board approves their application, being guaranteed that we the taxpayers will foot the bill for their school regardless of the effect on our budget. It allows the Board to approve up to ten applications a year, to obligate millions and millions of our tax dollars for years and years on end. The School Reform Act of 1995, in my view, badly needs a comprehensive update.

Meanwhile, in light of the terrible imbalance between our spending for homeless children and that for charter schools, I would love to see the board offer to put on hold any more charter school applications at least until the facilities that will replace DC General are up and running. I can’t imagine that any board member is entirely comfortable with the thought that their decisions, even if they are within the law, are tying up money that could be used to help the city solve the homeless problem.

But I know for a fact that Malcolm Peabody, who has been much celebrated for leading the effort to get charters schools in DC once said “I think it would be too bad for the charter schools to take over the whole city.”  I couldn’t agree more!

Table 1. Public Education System

Agency FY17 FY18 % change
DC Public Schools $905,881,570 $930,498,476 2.7
Charter Schools 723,717,252 806,482,683 11.4
Special Education Transportation 93,070,026 103,988,501 6.9
Non-Public Tuition 74,460,953 72,046,295 -3.2
DC Public Library 58,623,914 59,478,844 -1.3
Deputy Mayor Education 3,132,667 8,969,421 139.7
State Superintendent 495,306,485 498,318,338 0.6
State Board of Education 1,498,516 1,525,000 1.8
Charter School Board 8,013,987 9,109,827 13.7
UDC Subsidy 76,680,000 76,680,000 0.0
Teachers’ Retirement System 56,781,000 59,046,000 4.0
TOTAL $2,497,165,370 $2,626,033,385  

Note: figures are from the first page of Agency Chapters, volume 3, part 2, FY 17 and FY 18)

Homeless and Housing Expenditures, Operating

Homeward DC Allocation in millions
    Homeless Shelter Replacement Act of 2016 $28
    Permanent Supportive Housing 5.9
    Targeted Affordable Housing for Individuals & Families 3.0
    Rapid Re-housing 3.9
Housing Production Trust fund 100.0
Office on Aging Safe at Home Adaptations 3.0
DC Housing Authority Local Rent Supplemental Program 6.3
DHCD Housing Preservation 10.0
Affordable Housing components of Development Projects

Walter Reed—14

St Elizabeth’s—103

New Communities–85





TOTAL $365.1

Note: Figures for this table and the info below are from the Mayor’s Transmittal Letter and the Executive Summary, Introduction, FY18.

Homeless and Housing, Capital

Department Human Services–$50 million to acquire and construct temporary family shelters



Valerie Jablow Testimony – Education Committee Hearing on Public Charter School Board Budget – May 4, 2017


I am Valerie Jablow, a DCPS parent. I am testifying about the poor public engagement, civic planning, and fiscal responsibility of the charter board. Here, I will outline these problems—with specific solutions in footnote 5 of my testimony you have been handed.

–Applicants for charter schools are required to demonstrate a need that only they themselves determine. There is no disinterested analysis, so that “need” is defined only by charter operator desire–not public interest or desire. This has resulted in duplicative programs locating near, or marketing themselves to, existing schools. And, because our student population has not grown commensurately with growth in school seats (we now have more than 10,000 unfilled seats), existing schools including mine lose enrollment through no fault of their own.[i]

–The charter board website is the main source of publicly available information about our charter schools, but for any given school, there can be five or more different places to get information, none of which is obvious—and not all information is available, especially that from before 2011.[ii]

–Moreover, there is no listing of all notices of concern. Unless you read the agenda of every board meeting, you will not necessarily know what schools have been flagged for what concerns—nor why.

–Public comments are also not posted on the website in their entirety nor in a timely manner. In March, I and others sent in written testimony for both KIPP DC and DC Prep’s most recent applications. None of it has appeared on the charter board website, even though both applications were discussed by the board, and DC Prep’s voted on, at the April board meeting.[iii]

–In the last year alone, three properties in wards 7 and 8 were purchased by or on behalf of three charter organizations—KIPP DC, Rocketship, and DC Prep—to create new campuses. For all, the planning, the purchase (about $8 million total), and the permits were well underway or completed before the charter board or anyone in those neighborhoods saw any application for those schools–much less was asked for input.[iv] This lack of notice is particularly dire now that the charter board notification period for ANCs is down to 30 days from 45.

What all this means is that under current governance,[v] new charter schools are driven not by public demand, but by private desire.

Let me repeat: there is no public demand.

When students can be on 12 wait lists as they are in our lottery, wait lists are not demand. When less than a quarter of all our students participate in the lottery, as they did again this year, wait lists are not demand.[vi] And when real estate is purchased to build a school without neighbors having any clue, much less agreement or desire, that is not public demand.


This week and last, hundreds of people, including DC children and parents like me, testified before you about how our public schools right now are going without and need more funding for everything from staff to facilities.

That is public demand.


So I have to ask: whose budgets are being cut to create new charter schools every year without public demand, while our existing schools go without?

I can only hope that you, too, will ask that question going forward. Thank you.

[i] Many DCPS elementaries have decimated 5th grades as a result of charter school marketing themselves to their families and the misalignment of middle school grades between DCPS and charter middle schools. This is NOT anecdotal and has severe budget ramifications. See here:

Where Have All the 4th Graders Gone?


Duplicative programming was highlighted in the recent application of DC Prep to relocate its current elementary school to a new campus close by DCPS’s Ketcham Elementary. (Available here:–DC%20Prep%20Jan%202017.pdf)


On p. 13 of DC Prep’s application, it mentioned that Ketcham serves a similar population and has higher than average PARCC scores. So why start another elementary there if the one currently there is serving students well? Because this application was not about demand, but about real estate: DC Prep’s applied for that new school location on January 13, 2017. But DC Prep had purchased that site—a former Catholic school closed in 2007–in April 2016. By fall 2016, the building was undergoing extensive renovations.


Now, a year after that $2 million purchase, with untold thousands in renovation costs, the public component of that school is addressed. How is it possible to believe it would not get approved by the charter board? (The charter board did vote to approve it.)


[ii] There are more than 10 websites embedded in the link called “Information and Evaluations,” at the top of the charter board home page (the home page is; the “Information and Evaluations” page is available here: Charter applications, however, are at a separate link within the drop down menu when you swipe by “Information and Evaluations” on the home page (



These web pages contain a lot of critical information—but there is no place to access all of this information for each school in one place. Moreover, to find actual charter agreements, you have to go to yet another web link: first, click on the link at the top of the charter board home page called “For School Leaders.” Then scroll down to “Charter Agreements and Amendments.” Then search for the school you are seeking.


Even then, only the latest agreement is available–sometimes subsumed in 5-, 10-, or 15-year reviews. I also discovered that in at least one case (Washington Latin), what is available for its review (the 10-year charter review, from 2015-16) appears to be only an appendix, which consists of the school’s annual report for school year 2013-14 –not the charter board’s actual review. (I got to that from the home page, hitting the top pulldown choice of “information and evaluations,” then going down that page ( to “charter reviews and renewals” and searching for Washington Latin.) I mentioned this specific issue with regard to Latin’s information in January to charter board staff—it remains unchanged as of 5/3/17.


Such atomizing of public information means it is effectively unavailable to parents exercising school choice. Moreover, when I asked charter board staff how to get information from before 2011, I was told to FOIA it.


How are parents supposed to exercise meaningful school choice if they have to FOIA basic information?


[iii] I sent my testimony via email on March 20, 2017, to the charter board public comment email, to Scott Pearson, to members of the council’s education committee as well as to some committee and council staff and a few state board members. The testimony was addressed to the council education committee as well as the charter board. None of the emails bounced. The only acknowledgement I received was from Scott Pearson, who emailed a “thanks” shortly after I sent it in. Since then, I have inquired with charter board staff as to why my testimony has not been posted and have not gotten an answer why. The 21st Century School Fund and Washington Lawyers’ Committee also submitted written testimony for the same applications that also doesn’t appear anywhere publicly on the charter board website. It is unclear to me whether any of this written testimony was shared with the applicants or board members.
[iv] See the following for more information:


KIPP DC and DC Prep:




[v] Here are some ways in which charter school governance can be immediately improved by the charter board, the council, and mayor, without incurring undue cost or burden:


–All public comments given to the charter board about matters under consideration by the board should be made widely publicly available within a week of submission, posted in a place clearly marked on the website. All deadlines for such comments need to be clear and generous (i.e., more than a month).


–All applications for new schools; replications; expansions; campuses; locations; and enrollment ceiling increases must have an unbiased analysis for need, siting, and size that takes into account existing schools; resources; and student enrollments as well as the master facilities plan. This analysis should be part of the master facilities plan anyway.


–Complete overhaul of the charter board website, so that there is a clear delineation of all documents EVER relating to all charter schools, from soup to nuts, in ONE place for each school.


–The charter board needs to be responsible for the public in ways it is not right now, as it is the ONLY place where the public can go with concerns that exist in a larger sphere or if a school is unresponsive to the public. Thus, it cannot meet at night only; it must have public meetings more than once a month; and it must publish all comments it receives regarding its business at hand—and even beyond that.


If we really intend this to be a healthy system of public governance for a school system that educates nearly half our public school students, the following also needs to happen:


—The charter board should be elected and not allowed to receive campaign donations from anything other than a publicly financed campaign. The term limit of a charter board member should be no more than 3-4 years.


—Charter board staff and members should not be allowed to make donations to politicians in DC or receive donations from anyone.


—All charter board hearings and meetings need to be clearly delineated on the website. Publishing an agenda less than 48 hours before a meeting is not enough, especially as the agenda itself doesn’t always explain what action the board will take (saying it’s a “vote” isn’t specific enough—as in the recent case of KIPP DC, which had asked for a vote postponement: was the board voting on the application or its postponement?).


[vi] There are about 90,000 students in DC’s public schools. About 22,000 participated in the lottery this year. See the press release here:


Testimony of Suzanne Wells – Committee on Education Public Charter School Board Budget Hearing – May 4, 2017

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  My name is Suzanne Wells, and I have a daughter who is a 6th grader at Eliot-Hine Middle School.

Last week at the DCPS budget hearing, as Councilmember Grosso well knows, there were nearly 180 people who signed up to testify.  Having just six people testify today at the PCSB hearing should not be taken as an indication that people do not have concerns with the direction the PCSB is leading our city.  I believe it is more a reflection of the fact that the workings of the PCSB are not well understood by most people in the city.  Few understand the independent authority they have to open new schools; and few understand the Mayor’s FY18 budget proposal will give 80% of the $105 million increase being put toward education to the public charter schools.  Few know when PCSB public meetings are held because they are generally just advertised through e-mails to the ANCs and on the PCSB website.  And I suspect no one understands the inefficiencies and redundant spending that it costs our city to run multiple, distinct, and uncoordinated school systems – the DCPS, the PCSB and 65 public charter school local education agencies.

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to see the film Backpack Full of Cash that was shown at the Washington DC International Film Festival.  The film is about the social and economic costs of the movement to privatize public education.  Focusing primarily on public education in Philadelphia, you learn about a public school system where the state for years cut funding for education.  You see a city that neglected to maintain and modernize its public schools.  You learn about the problems created for the municipally-run school system when they compete for students with the emerging charter school sector.  You also learn about the school system in Union City, NJ that has made a commitment to its public education system, and has by all accounts an exemplary municipally-run school system — without a single charter school.

The film made me thankful, concerned and hopeful.  I was thankful because our city has made a commitment to modernize our public schools, and DC has been working for years to strengthen its public school system — though so much more could and should be done.  I was concerned because the problems depicted in the film that Philadelphia is facing with the competition between a municipally-run, by-right school system and a public charter sector seem to be very similar to what we see in DC.  I was hopeful because the example of Union City, NJ, which educates mostly poor, minority and immigrant students, showed how a city can become a national model for public education by embracing the ideas of gradual, sustained change, project-based learning, and working within existing structures — all without opening a single charter school.

In closing, I would like to ask the Education Committee to do three things:

  1. Request a city-wide study by the DC Auditor to assess and compare the costs to run DCPS and its schools, and the PCSB and the charter schools across the city. The study should look, in particular, at the administrative costs to run DCPS, the PCSB, and the 65 LEAs, and the facilities’ costs to operate the individual schools in each sector.
  2. Attend a screening of the film Backpack Full of Cash and encourage the PCSB members and executive director, the DCPS Chancellor, and the Deputy Mayor to attend the screening with you. While it is understandable that parents make choices for their individual children on what school is best for their own child, our elected and appointed education leaders need to be making public education decisions on what is best for all the children in our city, and how to best use our public education dollars. This should include an honest assessment about why the approach chosen by Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, most like what DC is now pursuing, is preferable to that chosen by Union City, NJ.
  3. Explore methods to better engage and facilitate greater public involvement and input into the PCSB budget process, and create a more transparent process, comparable to that involved with the DCPS budget process.