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.





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:

  • 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:

Betsy Wolf 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

My name is Betsy Wolf, and I am representing Amidon-Bowen and all DCPS schools facing staffing cuts today. About this time last year, DCPS unexpectedly cut several staff from our school budget, and I started my side-job creating graphs showing how inequitable funding in this city is; I am an education researcher by day, after all. One year and hundreds of graphs later, I am still trying to understand how it is possible that in a city as rich as DC, schools are forced to cut staff from their budgets each year. Here is what I’ve learned.

DCPS has shifted costs to the school level over time

Since the reign of Michelle Rhee, DCPS has shifted costs to the school level, so while it may look like budgets increase over time, you have to account for shifting costs. Some examples include technology, social workers and psychologists, JROTC instructors, background checks, and most recently, school security funds.

Staffing costs rise faster than increases in school budget allocations

Another big problem is that costs rise faster than increases in school budget allocations, which means that some schools are faced with new staffing cuts each year. DCPS requires schools to use the average districtwide cost for a position, and the cost of each position increases annually. This is another example of why a budget “increase” may not actually be an increase in purchasing power.

Unpredictable fluctuations from year-to-year and unfunded mandates

DCPS also starts the budgeting process from scratch each year, so there may be wild fluctuations from one year to the next in a school’s budget. DCPS may also change its rules about how it allocates funds each year with no notice to schools.

There are also unfunded mandates. Schools at times are “strongly advised” or required to employ staff whose positions are not funded by the comprehensive staffing model (e.g., LEAP, sped managers). Schools must then use their extra funds (if any) to cover unfunded mandates.

Budgets are then made more complicated by additional rules, carve-outs, and supplements that may show up in one year and be taken away the next. DCPS giveth and DCPS taketh away.

Not following intent of law on stabilization funds

After the Mayor decides how money to allocate to DCPS, DCPS figures out how to make the numbers work, taking advantage of loopholes and loose interpretations of the law that says a school budget can’t be cut by more than 5% in a given year. DCPS is not able to fund schools at similar levels each year because DCPS is not guaranteed any amount in the Mayor’s budget.

Staffing cuts results in other negative ripple effects

As a result of unpredictable and inadequate school budgets, schools have less purchasing power over time and are forced to make staffing cuts. As a result of staffing cuts, there are negative ripple effects, including highly inequitable PTA funding, lack of resources like working computers, and low morale and declining enrollment in schools that can’t cover shortfalls with PTA funding. And of course declining enrollment means less money for next year, so more cuts.

DC’s school governance structures and funding formula are also to blame

But the blame cannot be placed solely on DCPS. Our city’s school governance structures and funding formula are also to blame. Which means the burden of fixing the problem isn’t just on DCPS, it’s on all of us. I’ve learned a lot from others in my journey this past year, but there are still questions I cannot answer as a member of the public.

Recommendation 1: Fund education at adequate levels recommended by study

The city commissioned an adequacy study of school funding in 2013, and the city isn’t adequately funding education, according to its own study. Why not? That seems like a relatively straight-forward fix.

Recommendation 2: Investigate root causes of staffing cuts each year

Why is it that costs rise more than school budget allocations? What are the root causes of this problem? Is it that DCPS doesn’t get enough money from the mayor’s budget to cover costs? Is it that there is inefficiency in spending in central office? DCPS separates money into three categories: school-based, school support, and central office, but school support is really an arm of central office, so is central office too large?

Recommendation 3: Investigate differences in purchasing power for DCPS versus non-governmental LEAs

A dollar in DCPS doesn’t go as far as a dollar in the charter sector. DCPS must use all of the city’s agencies and city-approved vendors. That may be desirable for the city except for there’s no recognition of this in the school funding formula that gives equal per-pupil amounts to the DCPS and charter sectors. There’s no acknowledgement that DCPS is a governmental agency that has to abide by different rules than a non-profit in the non-governmental sector.

Recommendation 4: Provide Council oversight that goes further than asking hard questions during hearings

I know these issues are complex. But we don’t we have answers to basic questions that would help guide legislation to make sure that schools are adequately funded. I’ve seen many of you ask hard questions in oversight hearings, and I appreciate that, but if that’s where the oversight stops, we have a major problem. On this note, I applaud Councilmember’s Allen recent push to make charter schools, which are public schools, also subject to FOIA.

How are we going to solve the school budget crisis without first getting down to the facts? My recommendation is to hire an independent school budget expert and start to investigate some of these issues and determine the root causes.

Cuts in staffing and other resources at the school level are costly for students

The reason we all drag ourselves to testify again and again is because the cost to students of school budget cuts is great. If you’ve ever served on an LSAT, you know just how painful the conversations around staffing cuts are. How do you choose between a reading specialist and mental health professional for students? A mental health professional and enrichment beyond math and reading for students? Don’t our students deserve both?

It is time to put our money where our mouth is and actually put students first.

Brittany Wade Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 12, 2019

Committee on Whole and Education

Public Roundtable on the Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools

Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee Confirmation Resolution of 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Good afternoon Chairman Mendelson, Chairman Grosso, and other respective council members of the committee. My name is Brittany Wade a resident of ward 7 and a very proud mother of five children that attend Stuart Hobson middle school, Ludlow-Taylor and Smothers Elementary in wards 6 and 7.

I serve with Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (P.A.V.E) on the ward 7 PLE board. I am excited to discuss the Chancellors confirmation because I can honestly say I have done my part to help in the hiring process. Or at less talk to the ones responsible for making the decision.

My vision for DCPS is simple. I want for every child no matter which neighborhood they reside in to receive the same education as all DCPS children.

As I stated before I am a ward 7 resident and only one of my children attends our neighborhood school. Since the school year has started it has been like the tale of two cities for my family. There is a great disparity between the PTO funds generated at one school versus the other. The PTO at one school is helping with field trips and activities for the children throughout the year. I want my children to attend their neighborhood schools but it’s just not in my family’s best interest to do that when I know the school is not living up to its potential because of the funding disparity.

I really hope the chancellor will work with the Mayor as well as the council to insure budget transparency and evenly distributed resources in all 8 wards of the city. Allowing families to make the most informed decisions about the decision to enroll their children at a particular school, and how to better hold the school accountable for ensuring the funding is managed appropriately.

I also hope the chancellor will pay close attention to schools in ward 7/8 to help bring more opportunities and resources needed to help our neighborhood schools perform better. More dual language programs, vocational programs that will help prepare our young people to not just go to college and the military, but that will teach them skills to create businesses and help others in their community.

Being the Chancellor of Washington, DC is a huge task that I am sure Dr. Ferebee has now realized. I just hope that he continues to understand DC’s ever changing landscape but also keeps our children’s needs at the for front of his mind.

Thank the committee on the Education and committee of the Whole for allowing me to testify and share what I want to see for our kids and our city.