Testimony Before the Council of the District of Columbia Committee of the Whole & Committee on Education By Shannon T. Hodge

Nov 24, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Good morning Chairman Mendelson, Councilmember Grosso, and members of the Council.

My name is Shannon Hodge and I am the Founding Executive Director of the DC Charter School Alliance, the local non-profit that advocates on behalf of public charter schools to ensure that all students in the District receive the great public education they deserve.

The three bills before you today each represent important efforts to ensure that the city and its public schools, both district and charter, are doing what is necessary and right for students.

We support the “Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act” as an important step to removing one of the barriers to attendance and engagement that often affect menstruating students. We have shared with staff and Councilmembers minor recommendations that we believe will make the act more inclusive and will enable a wider range of school-level implementation.

We support the “Selective Service Federal Benefits Awareness Amendment Act” as an important step to making sure that students who are required to register for the Selective Service are aware of that obligation and the potential consequences of non-compliance.

We support the intent behind the “Education and Credit Continuity Amendment Act” to ensure that students in the care of the District of Columbia do not lose credits and that schools serving those students have the information necessary to ensure proper course placement. Unfortunately, while the level of detail in the bill is intended to provide clarity and direction, it may ultimately make the bill unworkable. The timelines are not necessarily implementable. Additionally, the bill does not take into account existing requirements related to enrollment, course catalogs, graduation requirements, credit attainment, and partial credits.

As the co-founder and former executive director of a public charter school serving many young people who fit the definition of students in the care of the District, I know firsthand the difficulties of serving and educating students who transition ineffectively and without the proper records. I am familiar with the struggles of reviewing a transcript of a student who has taken and passed the same course three times in three different settings because the schools did not effectively share records or correctly place the student. I know what it’s like to have to escalate a simple transcript request because no one responds and a student needs to be scheduled. And I have provided course catalogs, course maps, and graduation requirements to other schools who were trying to schedule students into their classes based on my school’s non-traditional classes. This work is complicated, to say the least.

The D.C. Council has already identified a need to better support the students this bill covers through its establishment of the Students in the Care of D.C. Coordinating Committee. That committee is creating a multi-agency and stakeholder process to improve educational access and outcomes for children, youth , and young adults who come into contact with the child welfare or juvenile justice systems in the District of Columbia. That committee, not this bill, should lead the work in this area, including by helping schools, agencies, and community members collaborate to develop model policies and solve long-standing problems.

Ensuring that the educational needs of this group of vulnerable students should build upon the work that has already been done and is being done in this area, not hinder it. Therefore, I encourage the Council to allow the Students in the Care of D.C. Coordinating Committee it created to address the concerns raised in this bill.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter, and I welcome any questions.