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Schools can now hire with the funds that were restored
The DC Council gave final approval to the budget on May 30, including $27.8 million more for schools. Since then, principals, teachers, and parents have been wondering when schools can actually use this additional funding.
The answer appears to be, now. DCPS communicated guidance to principals late last week that they can begin hiring for teacher and other positions, using the funds added by the council.
The amount added by the council to school budgets — which is (maybe approximately? see below) the amount schools can now spend on top of what they already had budgeted — starts on page 8 of this committee report.
There are still a number of specific questions which I’m hearing and have asked for guidance about from DCPS, but have not yet heard back; I will update this post and/or post again when I do hear.
Here is the guidance we have gotten so far:
Guidance from DCPS: “Yes, schools will be able to hire immediately for school-based staff with SFIB funding this summer. Additional school-based staff will be hired on the same schedule as any other new position budgeted for the start of the 2023-24 school year. Although these funds are being loaded into professional services, a non-personnel services funding category, schools that want to budget an additional school-based position with SFIB funds will be required to submit a reprogramming request as part of the DCPS summer reprogramming process. DCPS and OCFO will process these requests in accordance with the amounts approved for each school in the BSA.”
Guidance Chairman Mendelson’s office received: “The SFIB dollars will “show up” on school budgets in July 1, meaning they will be able to see the accurate amounts they have for the school year and have a clear understanding of what their budgets will be. They will be able to start spending against the 10% immediately, and then will get the bulk of the funding for the year on October 1. They should be able to hire now knowing what their budget will be for the coming school year. Schools FY23 funds should cover summer hires.”
Here are some of the questions I’ve been getting and what I know of answers:
When it says principals can hire “immediately” does that mean right now?
The language was kind of ambiguous — DCPS said “immediately this summer” and the text from Mendelson’s office says July 1. I’m told from principals that DCPS indeed told them they could start hiring now.
Can schools only hire with 10%, or all of it?
The guidance says schools get 10% of their funds now. I’ve therefore been asked, does that mean schools can only hire with 10% of what they got? My understanding is that no, it’s 100%.
What’s going on is that all this funding is for the next fiscal year, which runs October 1, 2023 to September 30, 2024. But the school year starts at the end of August. Teachers need to be paid for their work before October 1, and schools need to buy supplies before then as well. The way DCPS deals with this fiscal year mismatch is to advance some of the funds (here, 10%) into the current fiscal year. But a teacher hired now for the full school year will ultimately be paid with a little bit of the advanced funds and then the rest of it once the next fiscal year starts.
What’s this “summer reprogramming process”?
Normally, if a principal wants to change funds between categories, like non-personnel funds vs. personnel funds, they have to submit requests and then wait some time for that to go through the bureaucracy. We don’t want principals to have to tell DCPS how many people they want to hire, then wait for DCPS to approve it, then wait for the CFO to approve it, then wait for DCPS to enter the CFO’s approval into the computer, and so on and so forth, before the principal can even open up the job in the hiring system.
I’m told this is not going to be necessary, but people were still unclear about the details. I asked DCPS for clarification and just got back the same statement as above, verbatim. Hopefully I can get better clarification soon.
How much money, exactly, can principals use?
DCPS calculates staff costs a little differently than in the main DC budget. DCPS’ system treats every teacher, for instance, as having exactly the same salary, even though they don’t (this removes any incentive for principals to replace experienced but higher-paid teachers with newer ones, for instance). Some teacher pay is included in the average teacher cost, and some is not, including some of the raises teachers received with their new contract.
For next year, a teacher position “costs” $115,462 in DCPS budget worksheets. Let’s say a school got exactly $116,000 more from the council, and another got $113,000. Does that mean the first one can hire one teacher, and the second can’t? Or do the amounts get translated into DCPS-budget-numbers and come out a little higher or lower?
School LSATs will need to know this in order to best advise principals on how to use the funds, as they are supposed to do. This is also a question I’ve asked and DCPS didn’t answer yet, and will fill you in if I get clearer answers.
Will public school budget worksheets on dcpsbudget.com be updated?
Also a great question and one I’m asking.
Meanwhile, it appears principals can hire now, and LSATs should give their advice as they did for the regular school budget this spring.
If you hear more details about any of the above questions, please post in the comments or email me, and subscribe below if you haven’t already to get more updates as I receive them.