LaTesha Hudson Testimony – DC Public Schools Budget Oversight Hearing – March 29, 2019

Committee on Whole and Education

Budget Oversight Hearing of the District of Columbia Public Schools

 Friday, March 29, 2019

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am LaTesha Hudson, a parent of four children at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan (CHML) and Ward 8 resident. In addition to being a regular volunteer in the school, I serve on the school’s Swing Space Transportation Committee and support one of our Girl Scout Troops.

Our school will go into swing space starting next year as our current site undergoes a full, 2- year modernization. Thank you to Chairman Mendelson, Chairman Grosso and Councilmember Allen for supporting our modernization.

I testify today to ask you to provide additional funding of $4 million and direct DCPS and DGS to work with the architects and the community to determine creative solutions to build additional spaces we need to ensure that the school can be a school that serves a citywide population and supports all of the learning needs of ages 3 through 14, including underground parking in our new site. The various plan options for our school all include a new multi-story building that will require some digging and a foundation. In addition, under that building the architects confirm that they can dig down 33 feet before hitting water. We have not been allowed to look at the feasibility of options beyond the limited elementary “ed spec” that they use supposedly as a “base” for discussion. In fact, it has been the end of discussions.

We have significant challenges to parking on site above ground or in the neighborhood. We have an extremely small plot of land to service students 3 to 14 years olds that includes historic and federal property. As you can see from the chart below, when a school serves more grades, there is more square footage except for CHML. CHML has less square footage overall and less per kid square footage than other Ward 6 schools serving PreK-3 through 5th, yet the school will serve an entire middle school that those schools won’t serve. In addition, CHML has significantly less square footage and per kid square footage than the other Ward 6 education campus school. CHML’s square footage is most comparable to a stand-alone middle school serving grades 6-8 only.

School Gross Square Feet/Acreage Enrollment Grades Per kid square footage
CHML 115,674/2.66 495 (of new building) Pre-K3 through 8th 233.68
Ludlow-Taylor 129,349/2.97 414 Pre-K3 through 5th 312.44
JO Wilson 149,727/3.44 509 Pre-K3 through 5th 294.16
Stuart Hobson 87,528/2 422 6th to 8th 207.41
Peabody 34,998/.8 227 Prek3-K 154.18
Walker-Jones 147,512/3.39 435 Pre-K3 through 8th 339.11

Due to the various parking restrictions, permit requirements and traffic patterns, the streets surrounding the school are overcrowded and lack parking for parents, visitors, or teachers. The current DCPS plans allow for 24 spaces above ground. Yet the above ground lot will take precious land that can be used to help provide adequate outdoor space for our wide age- range of students, the proposed 24 spaces will not be enough spaces accommodate the teachers, staff and administrators. We need more than 24 spaces because we often to recruit teachers that commute from jurisdictions in the surrounding counties due to the fact that there is not a large pool of Montessori trained teachers in DC. In order to retain and support teachers that drive sometimes over an hour to get to the school we need to have ample parking spaces.

One of the main reasons I love this school is because of the diversity. CHML is a All Ward school, and it’s imperative that DCPS builds a new school building that will continue to welcome students citywide. Look at the scatterplot attached-our families come from all over the city. For example, 43% of our students come from Wards 7 and 8 (26% Ward 7; 17% Ward 8).

The majority of our Ward 7 and 8 families drive because they are coming from places that are not conducive to public transportation. In most cases if a family chooses to use Metro bus or rail their commute is an hour and 15 minutes and that’s on a good day. Most families that I know personally have to transfer multiple times between bus and train get to the school. I have 4 children ranging from 3 to 8 years old and I do not use not Metro bus or rail it’s imperative that I drive and parking is essential for me and a majority of the parents coming from east of the river.

A vast majority of the parents from many of our Ward 7 and 8 are very active in our school and want to remain active. We volunteer in classrooms, bring supplies for teachers, help with extracurriculars, sometimes into the evening hours. Every parent should be able to fully participate in the school and be involved in our children’s learning – not just those that live in walking distance. If we can’t know we are able to safely and easily park our cars, you will be creating an additional barrier, beyond a long commute, to actively participating in and supporting our children and sending them to the school they love. This is an equity issue.

In order to provide a school that can adequately serve families citywide with grades PK3-8, with enough inside and outside learning, play and enrichment space, we need you to provide funding for and a directive to DCPS and DGS to provide underground parking.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

 

 

 

 

Status

W6PSPO Meeting Notes – April 9, 2019

April 9, 2019
Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, 215 G St. NE, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

  1. Theodora Brown & Raenelle Zapata (Ward 5 Council on Education) and Eboni-Rose Thompson (Ward 7 Education Council) – Ward Council priorities and how we can better support each other

Ward 5

  • Founded in 1995. Traditionally, conducted an annual survey of all schools – talk to staff (secretaries/custodial staff, etc).
  • Under Rhee, all Ward 5 middle schools closed, and became education campus models. Middle school students were not accommodated; no pre algebra, no world language, and therefore, Ward 5 students could not apply to School Without Walls or Banneker. Ward 5 Education Council fought to reopen middle schools, and DCPS opened Brookland Middle School and McKinley Tech Middle School
  • Schools in Ward 5 still struggle from underfunding. None of schools in Ward 5 have full-time librarians.
  • Today: Priority is to revitalize Ward 5 Council on Education
    Paul Kihn joined in March; inviting CM Allen & Grosso to talk about Transparency legislation

Ward 7

  • Budget
  • Reasons behind budget shortfall by ~$15M
    • New costs like security
    • Extended year ending
    • Enrollment projections are unclear and inaccurate
    • Over-saturation of schools; capacity exceeds demand and students are scattered
    • Combination of above, seeing hits beyond 5% yet schools are losing stabilization funds
    • Budgets came out late; after oversight hearings, so schools did not show up during hearings to address budget cuts; lag in information
    • Priority – stop the bleeding; Ward 7 only second to Ward 8 vis-a-vis school age kids, but not many go to in-boundary schools.
  • Action
    • Joining ANC meetings to discuss a resolution to support additional funding for the DCPS schools in Ward 7
    • Ensure every ANC passes resolution
    • Eboni-Rose to email resolution to Suzanne
    • Budget advocacy cheat sheet for individuals. Not all schools have PTAs; not every issue specific to one school – helpful to speak with a collective voice
    • Working to come up w/ a # around funding gap
  • Obstacles
    • Ward 7 has STEM and language immersion schools, but there is little support for the programs.
    • Feeders are broken in Ward 7, e.g., H.D. Woodson High Schools’ only feeder school is Kelly-Miller Middle School which also feeds into Eastern High School.
    • Transportation is another important issue, especially for Kelly-Miller. Transportation was raised at the Strategic Planning Cabinet meeting.
    • Parents invest, but DCPS is not matching the investment; parents are willing to be partners, but not risk it all without investment by DCPS
  • Feeder Strategy
  • People are less concerned about the type of programming at a school, and more concerned about what the feeder pathway is. Looking to DCPS to support vertical articulation (path for language, path for STEM, etc)
  • Think more creatively about Sousa? Are there cluster situations to be leveraged?
  • Programming strategies? Every conversation with DCPS = how to better invest in schools in ways that translate to families.
  • Address Woodson’s lack of adequate feeder pattern – Kelly Miller has rights to Eastern and Woodson
  • CM Trayon White drafted resolution for Ward 8 schools that had support from every at large CM

2. C4DC Budget Proposal (see DC Fiscal Policy Institute budget analysis and this WUSA9 report and the C4DC budget tool)

Proposal

  • Important for communities to have access to by right schools w/ predictability through high school
  • Target increased funding to DCPS schools hardest hit in Wards 7 & 8. The students who need the most are getting the least in this year’s budget.
  • Stable feeder patterns are needed across city; how to support feeder systems across the city and how do we ensure the schools fill the needs of kids in each community
  • A stimulus investment is needed for the under enrolled feeder patterns to attract students to them, and over time it will cost the city less due to factors such as more efficient use of school buildings.
  • Timeline: currently gathering feedback. Education Committee report May 2, this is where Ed committee will show how it intends to increase funding for schools
  • Discussion
    • Q: Will focus include guidance around where DCPS should put the money? A: We’ll give them some direction. It will be critical to give direction in order to defend the amount we’re asking for.
    • We will need to make the case for why the Council should fund DCPS and not the charters with additional funds. There is justification in the law, in the high gain of DCPS students throughout the year. Ward 7 is asking for the at risk funds to be restored. This may be the largest hurdle.
    • Part of the pitch is we will not accept any more closings; this council cannot be the one that oversees the death of DCPS
    • Believe CM Mendelson will add $ to schools. The question is how much? Acute need is in DCPS.
    • Justifying cuts w/ enrollment, which are guesses; w/out investment in schools, enrollment will drop.
    • Enrollment reserves are not being used
  • How can we support:
    • Testify at Council meetings; help our councilmembers DME Hearing April 25
    • WTU Rally on April 25 – 4:30pm

3. DME Hearing April 25 & W6PSPO Testimonies

4. Bike-to-School Day is May 8, 7:30-8:15 AM @ Lincoln Park. All schools are invited.

Next CHPSPO Meeting: May 21, 2019

Upcoming Events

  • April 20 – National Park Service Easter Egg Hunt at Frederick Douglass House (10am-1pm)
  • April 25 Deputy Mayor for Education Budget Oversight Hearing
  • May 8 Bike-to-School Day, Lincoln Park

Visit W6PSPO on the web at http://chpspo.org

Status

W6PSPO Meets Tuesday, April 9 at CHM@L

The Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization will meet this Tuesday, April 9, from 6:30 – 8 pm at Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan (215 G Street, NE).  We’ll be joined by Theodora Brown with the Ward 5 Council on Education and Eboni-Rose Thompson with the Ward 7 Education Council.  They will share their ward council’s education priorities, and we’ll discuss ways we can support each other’s work.  We will also discuss city-wide impacts with the proposed SY19/20 budget.
Hope to see you on Tuesday.
Suzanne Wells

Mary Levy Testimony – DC Public Schools Budget Oversight Hearing – March 29, 2019

Committee on Whole and Education

Budget Oversight Hearing of the District of Columbia Public Schools

 Friday, March 29, 2019

As an education finance lawyer, a budget and policy analyst, and a DCPS parent, I have studied DCPS data and policies for almost 40 years, including the period when both our daughters were going through DCPS, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

For the last month, I have been studying local school budgets, first as initial budget allocations released by DCPS, then for the last week the Mayor’s budget versions.  For your information, these are two different sets of numbers that cannot be matched, because of differing assumptions on teacher costs and because the definitions are largely different.  A plea:  Please put a stop to this!  Why is DCPS keeping two different sets of books?

The initial allocations can only be described as inadequate, inequitable, un-transparent, and arbitrary.  Schools are affected very differently from each other, but cuts are disproportionately concentrated East of the River, and among at-risk, minority students, those most vulnerable to the ill effects of the de-stabilization caused by big budget cuts.

  • Local schools collectively have a total increase on paper of $56.2 M, but that is completely absorbed by inflationary increases in costs of staff ($26.9 M), transfer of security charges from central ($20.7 M), enrollment increase (excluding new schools, $6.0 M), and new school openings ($14.2 M), a total of $67.8 M. The deficit of $11.6 M is covered by program cuts in the schools.
  • Adjusting the budgets to eliminate the reduction in buying power caused by the inflation in staff costs and the security cost transfer results in each school’s “real dollars” for next year. Some still have enough to maintain current services, but some not enough for enrollment increase, and half must cut current services including schools with no loss or even increases in enrollment.
  • Altogether half the schools lost funding in real dollars. Seven schools lost over $1 M, and 6 more between $500,000 and $1 million.  Nine of these are East of the River, almost all are 99-100% minority and heavily at-risk,
  • The stabilization law limits dollar loss to 5% of each school’s budget this year, but doesn’t recognize inflation from staff cost increases and the new security charge. Even so, some schools have losses over 5% but no stabilization funds. Why?
  • Most elementary schools whose extended year programs were eliminated lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, though program was funded by at-risk funds which they kept. Why are they losing money?  Two lost almost $1 million!  DCPS did not provide stabilization funds for any of them.
  • When the special needs funding at each school is factored out, leaving “general education,” there is a general correlation in per pupil allocation by size, but still big differences not related to size or special needs. For example, there are pairs of schools in Wards 7 and 8, with the same enrollment, but a difference in allocations of $2,000 per pupil. Why?
  • DCPS has not released information on the use of at-risk funds. Although amounts are now tracked in the Mayor’s budget, they are labeled only as “At-Risk.”  Analysis of the initial allocations shows that half the funding is used for resources that are targeted to at-risk students, but the other half is in resources to which all students in all schools are entitled, meaning that they apparently supplant regular funds.

The Mayor’s budget increase in local funds is about $48 M, and that budget shows an increase in local school budgets of $50.4 M, as opposed to the $56.2 M in the DCPS version.  but

As to central accounts, as opposed to local school budgets, the Mayor’s budget of a week ago provides the first data we have seen.  Central accounts do include services provided directly to students, mostly in schools, including utilities, food service, special education therapists and dedicated aides, athletics, plus a host of functions that are included in teacher cost in the DCPS versions of school budgets but are clawed back into central accounts in the Mayor’s budget.  These include background checks, IMPACT bonuses, extra year options, substitutes, and more.

The challenge in determining central office spending is to separate these costs out.  They are included in the parts of the budget labeled “Schoolwide” and “School Support,” but these also include security operations other than school security guards, parts of downtown business services like procurement, warehouse and budget operations, school planning, and all the operations that monitor teachers and principals.  Definitions are not available.  In any event, from analyzing employee rosters, it is clear that central offices are bloated, with far more employees than were in DCPS when enrollment was much larger.  DCPS has announced that it is cutting at least 70 central office positions, but the Mayor’s FY 2020 budget shows an increase of about 315  positions outside of local school budgets.  If I can eke out an answer, I will share it.

 

Frank Nickerson Testimony – DC Public Schools Budget Oversight Hearing – March 29, 2019

Committee on Whole and Education

Budget Oversight Hearing of the District of Columbia Public Schools

 Friday, March 29, 2019

Frank Nickerson – Member, Capitol Hill Montessori Parent Student Teacher Organization

 

Hello, I am Frank Nickerson, Ward 6 parent to a daughter in 2nd grade and attending Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan (CHML)

I am grateful to be here and have Councilmembers who listen to citizens.

Several years ago it was discovered that the Logan building, where CHML resides, wasn’t assessed for its qualities to determine if it needed a renovation. Most other schools were assessed in DC but not CHML. One of the main reasons? CHML is an educational campus. It has a primary, elementary, and middle school.

DCPS assessed elementary school buildings. It assessed middle school buildings. We didn’t fall in either category so we weren’t assessed. For years.

We brought this to the attention of the Council and with your championing us and your support, and your direction, the CHML building was assessed, put on the renovation schedule, and you have given us funding to renovate the school. We are extremely grateful.

We are working with DCPS and DGS now on the the building specs.

We have a problem.

Irony of ironies, I think we’ve been forgotten by DCPS and DGS again.

We’re an educational campus. A Montessori educational campus. We need DCPS and DGS to recognize this again. We can’t stick to only a regular elementary school building spec when we have middle school students. DCPS and DGS seem to forget that we have a middle school. They forget that the elementary school and middle school are both Montessori.

Middle school kids are bigger too. Physically bigger.  We can’t just build this on a spec for elementary school students. Bigger middle school kids need more space for their activities. They need a full-sized gym. Not just a half gym. They can’t do much with a half-gym. They need a real auditorium to put on plays, for example. Kids can’t put on plays in a gym and give up on gym class when they are putting on a play

DC has actually hired an architectural firm with Montessori school experience. That’s good. However, we still need DCPS and DGS to agree to actually build this educational space for both Montessori elementary and middle school students and with Montessori-school type specs. They want to go by elementary school specs. We need your help.

This is a serious school. When it’s done your new building is predicted to educate 495 students. I believe this is the largest Montessori school by far in the mid-Atlantic.

CHML is a regional leader. Teachers and Montessori educators actually look to CHML. Montessori educators send newly trained Montessori teachers to CHML for practice teaching.  DC can set the standard for excellent public school Montessori education. Help CHML reach new heights by doing this job right.

Rebecca Reina Testimony – DC Public Schools Budget Oversight Hearing – March 29, 2019

Committee on Whole and Education

Budget Oversight Hearing of the District of Columbia Public Schools

 Friday, March 29, 2019

Hello, I‘m Becky Reina, Chair of the Ward 1 Education Council. Our Education Council is a volunteer organization that advocates for a stronger public education system that supports all our students and families, while assuring we safeguard our by-right neighborhood schools and work for greater resources, equity, transparency, fairness, and safety across both public educational sectors.

I am also the mother of 2 Cleveland Elementary School students, where I have in the past served on the PTA and LSAT. Thank you for this opportunity to provide feedback on the DC Public Schools budget.

The proposed DCPS budget for FY20 is inadequate and inequitable. Some schools are winners and some are losers. Some of the schools losing money year over year face cuts so steep that they could literally destabilize the schools; those are largely the schools that serve the highest percentages of At Risk students. Even many of the schools that are not losing money cannot adequately meet the needs of their students who have the most needs. At Risk funding continues to supplant, not supplement funding for core functions.  Having spoken to many principals throughout the city, many spent a month focused almost entirely on negotiating their unreasonable initial budget allocations with Central Office and attempting to creatively fill remaining gaps. Schools use inadequate funds the best they can, making choices like cutting badly needed interventionists or hiring additional aides rather than teachers to stretch their budgets. DCPS school-based staff continue to fear discussing their seemingly now-adequate budgets out of fear that their jerry-rigged fixes will be pulled back or they will be retaliated against for speaking out.

This budget puts many of our DCPS schools in crisis.

These inadequate, inequitable budgets are formed through a broken process, which should be reformed by:

  1. Creating targeted stimulus funds for by-right schools to ensure every school in our feeder patterns in every part of the city remain viable – say 30 million this year across schools serving the most At Risk students, with a focus on our under-capacity comprehensive high schools like Anacostia, Ballou, and Woodson. We cannot close more schools; to help struggling schools we must invest in them. We can and should provide these schools with funding to provide full teaching staffs for a truly comprehensive curriculum, wraparound services, interventionists, and adequate extracurriculars – all the things that attract families to a school. This stimulus could increase for FY21 and if successful, could gradually decline over a period of years as programs become more self-sustaining.
  2. Beginning the budget process – in earnest, with actual numbers – in the fall with schools rather than weeks or days before they are due.
  3. Ending or drastically reforming the Comprehensive Staffing Model.
  4. Ending zero based budgeting, which creates wild swings from year to year.
  5. Taking security costs back out of local budgets.  Individual schools have no control over security costs and it is inappropriate to use security costs to soften budget cuts, thereby preventing schools from receiving stabilization funds.
  6. Fixing enrollment projections by:
    • Changing count day. October is when charter schools have their highest enrollment and DCPS schools have their lowest. The reverse is true in the spring. Many of our students are transient within the jurisdiction, with others moving into the system throughout the year.  We need to move count day to the spring or aggregate two count days, fall and spring, to adequately fund our DCPS schools to match the number of students enrolled in reality.
    • Offering seats in the lottery based on school capacity and neighborhood and system needs, not based solely on a school’s current staffing level. There is a disincentive to release more seats into the lottery, if actual enrollment increases do not result in adequate additional funding to properly staff for the increases. If we staff our schools adequately, we can than bring them up to building capacity in neighborhoods where we are not yet filling them.
    • Admit that projecting enrollments is as much art as science. Project enrollment based on more than two past years and stop assuming that history is future. Neighborhoods are changing and our enrollment projections should track those changes.

Finally, I want to thank DCPS and Councilmember Grosso for your focus on technology this budget season. It’s badly needed. I hope the technology audit and systemwide plans include SMARTboards and ongoing maintenance for all types of devices. I am heartened to see DCPS listening to parents and I know we can continue this collaboration to affect larger improvements for all our students.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify.

Sandra Moscoso Testimony – DC Public Schools Budget Oversight Hearing – March 29, 2019

Committee on Whole and Education

Budget Oversight Hearing of the District of Columbia Public Schools

 Friday, March 29, 2019

Good morning Chairmen and Councilmembers. I am Sandra Moscoso, a parent of students enrolled in Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, and School Without Walls. I am also a former BASIS DC charter parent. I share this with you, because like many D.C. families, including those waking up to school lottery results today, mine is a “Cross-Sector” family.

I am happy we have become self-aware about equity in DC and commend Council for supporting legislation which begins to make funding decisions based on data and evidence. It’s time to evolve further and not let politics or fear of the well-funded education lobby stand in the way of students getting the resources they deserve.

I believe we can do this by taking a comprehensive approach to education planning – parents want this and will support you.

1.9 billion goes to fund public schools. How many students rely on public schools? How many schools are we funding? Are we making the most of limited dollars? Why is it every year, we can’t we seem to make schools whole?

I compared OSSE’s #s of overall 2019 enrollment with that of 2012.

  • Our student enrollment has grown by 22%
  • Our charter and DCPS school inventory has grown by 33% in that time

A study for the DME as part of the 2018 Master Facilities Plan revealed there are 22,000 vacant seats across DCPS and charter schools – that’s 20% under-utilization. 22,000 empty seats, yet here are 170 witnesses telling you our schools are underfunded.

Couldn’t we begin to resolve this by committing to take a sensible approach to planning, so that every school where students sit today is adequately funded? I think about the lack of coordination across DCPS and DCPCSB and wonder: if we owned more cars than we could maintain, our solution would not be to buy more cars.

Looking back at the DME study, I was struck by how the recommendations seemed so common sense.

  • Utilize current educational space in the best ways possible
  • Retain educational space for educational purposes
  • Grow access to space for educational purpose
  • Review enrollment policies to manage utilization
  • Streamline planning processes, data collection and knowledge sharing

I go back to this study because although we are here to discuss DCPS’ operational budget, we cannot detach the teachers, staff, and materials required to educate students from the fact that we have chosen to open buildings, staff schools, and enroll students without a comprehensive strategy in mind. Without strategy and planning, we will continue to hurt our existing charter and DC public schools and will continue to underfund them.

We are in a unique position with the attention of the whole Council focused on education. It’s an opportunity to truly support every one of those 94,000 students enrolled in our schools today and sensibly, strategically plan for the 108,000 students projected to be enrolled in our schools 10 years from now.

And one more thing. School librarians are set to suffer a 10% cut across schools. School libraries are linked to improved standardized reading scores. DCPS’ literacy strategy includes in-class libraries and partnerships with DPL, yet somehow, we continue to forget the impact qualified librarians bring to a school. We went through this 6 years ago, concluded that we believed in evidence and data, and restored funding for DCPS librarians. There are a million reasons to support school libraries, but please do not take my word for it. I’ve attached a factsheet and links to a number of school library impact studies in this testimony. Please protect this funding.

Thank you for your time.


Enrollment/school inventory source: https://osse.dc.gov/enrollment

  • Of school with enrollment of 131+* students, 227 DCPS+Charter in 2019, 170 schools in 2012. (*131 – the lowest enrollment in a DCPS was used as minimum enrollment cutoff for this exercise).
  • ~ 94,000 students are enrolled DCPS + Charter 2019; ~76,000 enrolled in 2012.

School Librarian Impact Sources: