The council's budget is still adding funding to schools
Plus a little more
The DC Council will take its first of two main votes on the DC budget tomorrow (Tuesday), and Chairman Phil Mendelson has released his proposal for the council to debate and vote on. So far, it continues funding many schools more than the original DCPS budgets did.
The press has reported transportation items in there, including 24-hour Metrobus service on 13 routes, saving the Circulator for at least one year, and delaying the K Street Transitway one year with funding to do planning (to make a better version, after DDOT’s recent changes went over very poorly). But here is the impact on schools.
Schools could be getting funds for two reasons: first, the council is further increasing the “at-risk concentration weight,” extra funds that go to schools with over 40%, and even more for over 70%, of at-risk students (students on public benefits, in foster care, and over-age in high school); second, it’s enforcing the Schools First in Budgeting Act (as the council budget office computes it) which aimed to limit cuts to schools but which DCPS disregarded.
We still don’t really know a lot about the likely impact of this on central administration. The Bowser administration claimed this would be harmful to DCPS, and some advocates also worry about that, but Mendelson doesn’t appear to agree — saying, at a hearing, that the mayor always proclaims budget changes will cause disaster but without that really coming to pass. I haven’t seen a lot of hard information about this one way or the other, unfortunately.
Funds shift to handle teacher raises sustainably
In addition, the council is shifting funds to schools to cover the impact of teacher pay raises in the Washington Teachers Union contract. That contract increased teacher pay and DCPS is paying that, but it wasn’t actually appearing in school budgets; instead, it was handled in a Workforce Investment Fund.
This potentially matters because if a school isn’t putting the full actual salary of teachers on its budget, and next year it has to, it would suddenly discover its budget doesn’t go as far. The council is trying to fix that by putting the full salary of the teachers onto the school budget now (by adding more money to school budgets), so that it can keep covering the same number of teachers next year.
Another proposal (which is unchanged from April) creates a new “Mid-Year Mobility Fund” for schools that add students during the year. Many schools see extra enrollment, whether from people moving into DC (including asylum seekers shipped to DC by red state border governors, who end up at a certain set of schools) or people who leave charter schools during the year. Education advocates have long argued that schools don’t get the resources they need to handle this, and the council is aiming to help them through this proposal.
Capital budget additions include Stoddert modernization; “a child daycare center for Roosevelt STAY at Garnet-Patterson” (can we please drop these “x at y” names so they aren’t confusing?); “improvements to auditoriums at Jackson-Reed High School, Anacostia High School, and Hardy Middle School”; and “Garrison Elementary School athletic field and playground lighting.”
The council will debate and vote on the budget tomorrow, beginning at 11 am. You can listen in using the links here.
Join a boundary study town hall
But, if you do one video meeting tomorrow, the best one is to attend one of the virtual town halls about the Boundary and Student Assignment Study. Education officials will present what they are working on and get feedback from the public.
The town halls are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 pm (both will be identical).
I’m a member of the advisory committee for the study, but thoughts from all public school parents are important. I’m hoping to post more soon about that, and if you’re not subscribed to this newsletter, you can subscribe to get information about that and about anything else that happens with the budget. Thank you!