With summer just getting started and vaccine uptake increasing, we’re starting to envision an end to the COVID-19 pandemic –– and for that we’re grateful. But the last year has been incredibly difficult for our students and their families, and we know that the problems created by instability, loss, and social isolation will take time to recover from.
And it’s been more than a year since many here in D.C. and across the country took to the streets to protest the unjust killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. That pivotal moment and the weeks and months that followed exposed deep inequities about institutions that are supposed to serve our communities –– including our education system.
We’ve all experienced hardships none of us could have predicted in the last year, but those hardships disproportionately affected students in low-income communities. Our school leaders care deeply about making sure the more than 44,000 students who attend charter schools can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally –– which will, in turn, help every community in our city thrive. Our schools have been working tirelessly to make sure students –– and their families –– are supported in every way possible.
We know our city leaders share the same goal. That’s why I’m encouraged by Mayor Bowser’s proposed budget, and the first steps she and her administration have taken toward prioritizing education and an equitable recovery. These investments include:
- An 3.6 percent increase to the foundational amount of funding (UPSFF) the District provides for each student’s education.
- An increase in the per student “at risk” funding weight from 0.2256 to 0.24 to support our most vulnerable students.
- The creation of a new supplemental at-risk weight at 0.06 for students who are over-age in high school.
- An increase to the English Language Learner weight, from 0.49 to 0.50 for ELL elementary students and 0.75 for middle and high school students, which indirectly supports undocumented students who are often excluded from other financial supports because they lack documentation.
- An expansion of the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program to support 4,200 additional students, which will create incentives for students to make up for lost time through summer programming, help rebuild some of the community we lost this year, and get them back on track.
- $13 million to support high-impact tutoring, an evidence-based approach to accelerate student learning.
- Additional dollars to fund the expansion of the Department of Behavioral Health’s (DBH’s) school-based mental health program, which provides targeted interventions, support, and treatment for students.
- Additional funding for the District’s parks, recreation, and library projects.
These investments are vital, and the DC Council should support them. As we move further into recovery, the next school year for our students will be critical, which is why I appreciate Mayor Bowser’s leadership in the budget process so far. As the Council of the District of Columbia now considers the budget, I urge them to build on the Mayor’s proposal to support continued, increased, and equitable investments in public education in a number of ways, including:
- Increasing the facilities allotment for charter schools by 3.1 percent, which could be accomplished by transferring approximately $4 million from the proposed charter facilities grant fund.
- Making a legislative adjustment to guarantee a 3.1 percent annual increase for the facilities allotment for each of the next five years to ensure continuity, consistency, and predictability of funding for charter school facilities.
- Providing equitable budget stabilization funding for both DCPS and charter schools by either amending the Mayor’s proposed BSA provision to include charter schools or by striking the BSA subtitle and creating a stabilization fund administered by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education that is accessible to all public schools negatively affected in this recovery year by pandemic-related enrollment fluctuations.
- An additional $841,000 over the $5.8 million in Mayor Bowser’s proposal to fully fund the expansion of the DBH’s school-based mental health program and offer much needed support to community-based organizations and DBH clinicians who will work tirelessly for students during this time of recovery.
- Increasing the UPSFF foundation formula by 4 percent to the level recommended in the 2013 adequacy study.
- Fully funding the at-risk and English Language Learner weights to the levels recommended by the 2013 adequacy study to ensure schools have the resources they need to support their most vulnerable students.
Like Mayor Bowser and the DC Council, our goal is to build a truly equitable system that provides an education for our students. That’s why it’s critical we meet the moment and work together to make sure our students receive the education they deserve.