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DC Cannot Afford the Luxury of Not Planning for Its Schools

The DC School Boundary and Feeder Pattern proposal, just released by the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME), reflects widespread sentiment for high-quality, by-right neighborhood schools. Families in all wards want their children to have the choice to attend neighborhood schools that offer a balanced and rich curriculum—with the challenges and support their children need.

We commend the DME and the advisory committee for spending countless hours listening to thousands of parents across the city and debating how best to redraw school boundaries and reestablish coherent feeder school patterns. While some may be unhappy over particular lines or feeder patterns, no one should lose sight of the overall direction this proposal lays out for our city.

Now, much work lies ahead to ensure quality by-right schools in every neighborhood. Because of closures, or misguided reforms to create K-8 educational campuses, some parts of the city have no neighborhood elementary schools; others have no middle schools.

The proposal clearly shows that DC public schools (DCPS) and the DME are being thoughtful about planning to best meet the need, and obvious demand for, high-quality neighborhood schools. Indeed, the proposal, along with the funding formula to help the lowest performing schools, represent a necessary investment in achieving high-quality neighborhood schools everywhere in our city.

But all that good planning will come to nothing if we do not immediately deal with the elephant in the room: the lack of coordination and planning between DCPS and charter schools.

Longstanding neglect of our public schools—which the DME’s boundaries proposal and the funding formula seek to undo–emboldened Congress in 1995 to make DC a testing ground for the burgeoning charter movement. Less than 20 years later, 43% of our public school students attend charters funded with DC taxpayer dollars.

The current lack of coordination between charters and DCPS has had huge ramifications for public policy. Without a substantially growing student population, the creation of new schools, both charter and DCPS, has resulted in existing schools losing enrollment—and therefore resources. And those losses lead to failing schools and school closures.

This tremendous waste, in the name of competition, is not some logical by-product of educational checks and balances. It is a cost borne by all DC taxpayers and, worst of all, every one of DC’s public school kids.

Our city needs to use the DME’s new boundaries plan as the first step in collaborative public education planning with charters. Now is the time for our city to dedicate resources to strategically reopen neighborhood schools and to ensure all neighborhood schools get the resources they need. And it is time for charters to coordinate with existing schools, both charter and DCPS, to ensure that their innovations are brought to the kids who can most benefit.

DC parents want a system of choice schools, not school competition where our children’s educations are put at risk when any school lacks what it needs. A collaborative approach to running our public school system can create an environment in which every school, and therefore every child, has a fair chance to succeed.

Doing otherwise is just a luxury our city cannot afford.

 

Caryn Ernst, Capitol Hill Cluster School parent

Valerie Jablow, Capitol Hill Cluster School parent

Suzanne Wells, Tyler Elementary School parent

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CHPSPO Meeting Notes – April 23, 2014

Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization
Payne Elementary School, 1445 C St., SE
April 23, 2014 – 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

  1. Bike to School Day (Jennifer Heffernan, DDOT)

o   Register your school (even if you’re not making the Lincoln Park event): http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/user/login?destination=node/add/event (Create the account, then register for goodies from DDoT)

o   US Department of Transportation’s Acting Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Victor Mendez will participate

o   National Center for Safe Routes to School will join us

o   How to get more low income families to participate?

o   WABA Bicycle Ambassadors to direct bike trains?

o   Golden Bicycle Competition – school w/ greatest percentage of cycling (and skating, scooting, tricycling) population in DC wins!

  1. Discussion of Homeless Children Attending Capitol Hill Schools and What Our Community Can Do to Help (Lauren Conley,  Homeless Children’s Playtime Project )

o   Playtime Project philosophy: Play is a human right. Playtime Project delivers structured play (snacks, art, movement) at shelters

o   Every DC school (by law) has a homeless liaison. DCPS contact list: http://osse.dc.gov/publication/dcps-homeless-liaison-contact-list

o   Law requires funds for field trips, uniforms, transportation, etc: application of the law depends on the school’s ability: schools automatically enroll homeless children.

o   How we can help

      • Uniform drives
      • Halloween costume drive (by playtime)
      • Holiday gifts
      • Backpacks filled w/ school supplies
      • Socks, underwear
      • Gently used books, outside toys
      • Baby things
      • Talk to your kids about empathy, teasing, etc
      • Mentorship program? Girls Inc? Girls on the Run, Big Brothers:
      • Capitol Area food bank (lesson + bag of groceries)
      • Weekend food; Backpack w/ food for the weekend. http://feedingamerica.org/
      • Advocacy
      • Ways to support Relisha Rudd

o   Set aside PTA funds for a general fund in her name

o   Washer/Dryers and pantries at every school

o   Letter-writing campaign

o   November Homeless Awareness Month

o   Next Steps: Cornelia Sigworth to assemble homeless families sub-committee to pursue support activities.

 

  1. School Boundaries/Feeder Pattern Discussion (Denise Forte & Marty Welles)

o   Discussion:

o   Next Steps:

    • CHPSPO to look to Working Group Data (to be posted on DME site) at the school level and to http://ourdcschools.org results at Ward level to put together a position on boundary review

o   You can provide feedback on the proposals on http://ourdcschools.org/ (created by Code for DC) through mid-May. All feedback will be made open, while protecting privacy data.

  1. Public Charter School applications and public hearing (Suzanne Wells)

o   Suzanne Wells and Laura testified

o   Two new middle schools could be approved

o   Written testimony accepted until April 25

 Next CHPSPO Meeting:  May 20, 2014

 

Upcoming Events

April 22 – May 5              CHM@L online auction (www.biddingforgood.com/CHML)

April 26          Payne Spring Festival and Bazaar (9am-3pm @ Payne)

April 26          DCYOP @ Eliot-Hine. 12:30pm performance on the blacktop. Stay tuned for the Fall 2014 DCYOP Petting Zoo at Eliot-Hine!

April 26          Ludlow-Taylor Spring Jubilee (2pm-5pm @ Ludlow Taylor)

April 29          Eliot-Hine Career Fair – Register here to present 15 min snapshots

May 5              Eliot-Hine Open Houses – morning and evening

May 7              Bike to School Day (Lincoln Park) – Register your school and join the Fun!

May 10           Laps Around Lincoln (Tyler Fundraiser) 9-11 AM @ Lincoln Park

May 14           Eliot-Hine PTO meeting for incoming families. How to get involved w/ PTO before you enroll.

May 18           Capitol Hill Classic 10K/3K/Fun Run