CHPSPO will meet on Tuesday, May 16, at 6:30 pm at Maury Elementary. We will be joined by Claudia Lujan who will be discussing the DCPS Reign: Empowering Young Women as Leaders Initiative. We will also discuss the ESSA Advisory Task Force the State Board of Education is forming, and discuss holding elections to fill officer positions for CHPSPO.
Please continue to encourage your school communities to sign the Petition to the DC Council supporting a 3.5% increase in the uniform per student funding formula. It is important to sign the petition soon as the Council will be voting on the budget the end of May. Currently, there are 821 signatures on the petition. Here is the link to the Petition — http://bit.ly/2q91FI3. Also, here is a Washington Post op-ed about the need for the budget increase — http://wapo.st/2pvw6JH
Hope to see you on Tuesday.
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
|DC Public Schools||$905,881,570||$930,498,476||2.7|
|Special Education Transportation||93,070,026||103,988,501||6.9|
|DC Public Library||58,623,914||59,478,844||-1.3|
|Deputy Mayor Education||3,132,667||8,969,421||139.7|
|State Board of Education||1,498,516||1,525,000||1.8|
|Charter School Board||8,013,987||9,109,827||13.7|
|Teachers’ Retirement System||56,781,000||59,046,000||4.0|
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|
|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
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
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:
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: http://www.dcpcsb.org/sites/default/files/report/Charter%20Amendment%20Application%20%28Location%20and%20Replication%29–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 http://www.dcpcsb.org; the “Information and Evaluations” page is available here: http://www.dcpcsb.org/evaluating-the-schools). Charter applications, however, are at a separate link within the drop down menu when you swipe by “Information and Evaluations” on the home page (http://www.dcpcsb.org/report/charter-applications-archive).
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 (http://www.dcpcsb.org/evaluating-the-schools) 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:
[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: https://dme.dc.gov/release/my-school-dc-releases-results-common-lottery-system
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization members,
I hope everyone had a restful spring break. CHPSPO will meet on Tuesday, April 25, at 6:30 pm at Miner Elementary (601 15th St. NE). We will be joined by Denise Fraction and Sherry Holland-Senter with the AARP Foundation Experience Corps who will be discussing their literacy tutoring program from grades K – 3, Ivy Ken who will be updating us on food service issues, and Catharine Bellinger who will share information with us about Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).
Hope to see you on Tuesday.
The Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization will meet on Tuesday, March 21 at Stuart Hobson Middle School (410 D Street, NE) in Room 108. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen will join us for the meeting. We will also be joined by Joe Weedon, Ward 6 State Board of Education, who will be discussing the OSSE School Accountability/State Plan that is scheduled for a SBOE vote on March 22. We’ll also be discussing potential changes to the school mental health program, the April 11 Community Engagement Session with Chancellor Wilson and Bike-to-School Day.
Hope to see you at the meeting.