The Districts Dime

Wondering What Made It Into Next Year’s Budget For Health and Education? Check Out Our Toolkits.

July 30th, 2014 | by Wes Rivers and Soumya Bhat

The city may be in the midst of its summer slowdown, but DCFPI wants to make sure you are up to date on what to expect in the DC budget for next year. Today, we’ll give you a summary of what’s in store for two of the biggest parts of the DC budget, health and education, from DCFPI’s budget toolkit. We’ll cover more issue areas, and provide an analysis of the entire budget, before long. 

Health Care in DC’s FY 2015 Budget 

The District plans to spend $3.5 billion in local and federal funding on health care funding next year.  That is a 6 percent increase after adjusting for inflation. The budget includes: 

  • Continued Growth in Medicaid Program. The Department of Health Care Finance – which administers Medicaid – represents 85 percent of the growth in healthcare expenditures. This reflects higher per-person costs in the Medicaid managed care program and a 3 percent growth in enrollment.
  • Greater Local Investment in Public Health Programs for Children.  The FY 2015 budget invests new local funds in Home Visiting – which supports health and cognitive development for children under age five ­– to replace expiring federal funds. The budget also expands school-based mental health to six additional schools. Still, fewer than half of all schools (DCPS and charter) will have a mental health professional.
  • A New Funding Mechanism to Sustain the DC Health Exchange. Federal funds have been covering the costs to operate the District’s exchange, DC Health Link, but next year the city will have to pay those costs. So the DC Council established a dedicated, local tax to fund the exchange’s $29 million budget. 

Education in DC’s FY 2015 Budget

The city will spend $1.9 billion in local funds on education next fiscal year, a 6 percent increase after adjusting for inflation. That includes:7-30-14-toolkits-blog-f1

  • Changes to the School Funding Formula. The budget increases base per-pupil funding by 2 percent for both DC Public Schools and Public Charter Schools. It also increases amounts provided for students in adult and alternative education, English language learners, and special education students.
  • New At-Risk Funding. The budget adds $81 million for 36,000 at-risk students across both sectors. Summer school will also be funded by this amount. DCPS plans to use new funds to add staff and supports for middle grades, and to extend the school day at up to 52 schools, among other initiatives. But teachers have approved a longer school day at only a handful of schools, and it is not clear at this time what will happen at the others.
  • Investments in Early Childhood Education. The budget adds $4 million to build DC’s system for rating and improving the quality of early childhood programs. Another $5.2 million is included to support additional child care slots for infants and toddlers.

Keep checking back with the District’s Dime for more toolkit updates this summer!

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Four Quick Facts on DC’s Economy and Its Impact on Residents

July 29th, 2014 | by Jessica Fulton

Amidst the ups and downs of the DC economy in recent years – the Great Recession that may seem to some like a distant memory, the ongoing gentrification in more and more communities – some key stories emerge. DC is becoming a more expensive place to live, yet many residents live in poverty, unemployment is higher than before the recession started, and growth in wages has largely been confined to the top earners. These are key findings from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute’s “Quick Facts” on the DC economy. Here are four points that we think are especially important.7-29-14-quickfacts-f1

  1. Poverty affects one in five DC residents. For a family of three, that means living on less than $19,090 a year. Children under the age of 18 are much more likely to live below the poverty level than adults. And one in four black DC residents and one in five Hispanic DC residents live in poverty compared with under one in 10 white non-Hispanic residents. Read about poverty in DC. 
  2. DC’s unemployment rate remains higher than before the recession. For many of DC’s residents, the economy has improved. But the District’s recovery has been uneven, and many groups–including minorities, young residents, and residents without college degrees — face far higher unemployment rates than before the recession began. Read more about unemployment in DC.
  3. The wages of low-wage DC workers have barely changed over the past thirty years, while wages for top earners have increased substantially. Wages have fallen for all but DC’s most educated residents, and wage inequality is now at the highest level on record. Read more about DC’s wages.7-29-14-quickfacts-f2
  4. Consumers spent 42 percent more for everyday goods and services in 2013 than they did in 2000. The Consumer Price Index (commonly known as inflation) is a measure of the average change over time in the cost of typical goods and services. These cost increases show why increases need to be made to income through services like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or through the minimum wage. Read more about the Consumer Price Index. 

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Reeves Center Swap: The Rush to Build The Stadium Could Leave Us with Regret

July 23rd, 2014 | by Wes Rivers

Mayor Gray’s plan to sell the Reeves Center to help pay for a soccer stadium raises a number of concerns. Rather than seeking input from the community and setting requirements on the redevelopment in ways that meet the neighborhood’s needs, the mayor’s plan would allow the developer, Akridge, to do whatever it wants with the site. Beyond that, Akridge would get the Reeves Center at a price below at least one appraisal. Finally, the plan calls for creating a new Reeves Center east of the Anacostia River, yet it offers no details and no financing, meaning that it is little more than a dream at this point.  

This suggests that the Reeves Center redevelopment is secondary to a rush to get cash to pay for a soccer stadium. That is unfortunate. 

A new stadium for DC United is an important endeavor for the District of Columbia because it will add to the cultural fabric of the region and the civic pride of its residents. As mentioned before in the District’s Dime, most soccer stadiums in the U.S. are built with at least some public contribution. 6-9-14 Stadium Hearing blog f1

So then the question is not whether the District should support a new stadium – it should – but whether the deal proposed by Mayor Gray is the best approach. At today’s hearing before the Committee on Economic Development, we will focus on how the District can benefit most from the planned redevelopment of the Reeves Center. 

Here are some of our concerns: 

  • Redevelopment of the Reeves Center should be taken more seriously. Normally, redevelopment of a property as important as the Reeves Center would include detailed planning and a series of community meetings. Control of this site gives the District the opportunity to shape the continued development of the U Street area. Yet the mayor proposes to transfer the Reeves Center to Akridge and allow the company to redevelop the site any way it wants.  
  • Land swaps limit the District’s ability to get the best deal possible. The legislation would charge Akridge $56 million, despite one recent appraisal of almost $70 million. In the District’s current real estate market, it is not unusual for properties to sell above their appraised value. This suggests that putting the site up for sale would be a better deal for the city.
  • Plans for a new “Reeves Center” should be more concrete. The plan calls for a new Reeves Center east of the Anacostia River, yet offers no financing plans. With the city very close to its borrowing limit, it is not clear how or when a new municipal center will be completed. 

Under the agreement, Akridge would benefit from the booming development of the U and 14th Street corridors and from their landholdings adjacent to the proposed stadium site at Buzzard Point. In considering the agreement, the DC Council and its consultants must ensure that we are gaining just as much as we are giving up when trading away this valuable asset.

To read DCFPI’s testimony, click here.

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Welcome to DCFPI’s Summer Interns and Staff Updates

July 22nd, 2014 | by Ed Lazere

I am excited to welcome two interns, Kathy Haines and Nathan Harrington, who joined the DC Fiscal Policy team this summer and have been doing some great research in education and housing policy. I also wanted to share some good news about two current DCFPI staff. Kathy f1

Kathy Haines is originally from Waterbury, Connecticut.  Kathy holds a Bachelors of Environmental Policy degree from Boston Universityand is a returned Peace Corps volunteer (Benin 2004-2007). She has worked in finance and program management for an international public health firm, John Snow Inc. (JSI), and in direct social service case management with Catholic Charities DC. She is now a Master of Public Policy candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park. A DC resident since 2007, she aspires to work on policies and programs that prevent the displacement of long-time Washingtonians.  

NateNathan Harrington is a native of Rockville, Maryland and a graduate of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. For the past eight years he taught middle school and high school Social Studies in Prince George’s County Public Schools. This summer he is assisting Soumya Bhat with research on DC schools as part of his Masters in Educational Administration and Policy at Howard University. He is a proud resident of Congress Heights, where he leads the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway and serves on the Board of the Ward 8 Farmer’s Market. 

And in other news…. 

Kate Coventry has been appointed to the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH). Created in 2005, the ICH guides the District’s strategies and policies for meeting the needs of those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. For more information on ICH, please visit www.ich.dc.gov

Jenny Reed has been promoted to Deputy Director at DCFPI. Jenny looks forward to expanding her role to focus more on DCFPI’s operations and planning while continuing her focus on affordable housing, taxes, and poverty and income trends in DC.  

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Guest Blog: Laying the Groundwork with Investments in Adult Literacy

July 18th, 2014 | by Judy Berman, Deputy Director, DC Appleseed

The budget recently passed by the DC Council includes two provisions that will benefit District adults who need basic skills education in order to achieve greater economic security. These investments are important because District adults without a high school diploma or equivalent are more than twice as likely to be poor as those with some college or an associate’s degree (see Figure), and our current system is not well-designed to help adult learners move from adult basic skills to get a GED and then on to post-secondary success. 

One provision in the budget establishes an Adult Career Pathways Task Force housed by the Workforce Investment Council. With funding for a senior staff person and technical assistance (a total of $175,000), this task force has been charged with analyzing the current use of the District’s adult literacy dollars across agencies and funding streams, and developing a plan to better integrate adult literacy services with workforce and career training. These integrated services will enable adult learners to advance in workforce skills and knowledge at the same time as they advance in basic literacy, numeracy, and computer literacy. They will include industry-specific credentials and certifications so learners are building their earning capacity while increasing their literacy skills. 

The District currently offers a variety of literacy programs, some better integrated with industry than others. When the programs are aligned properly into “career pathways,” they enable learners to move seamlessly from one level to the next by making sure that the exit criteria from one stage match the entrance criteria for the next. Career pathways are key to helping low-income adults at all stages of the education spectrum move toward greater economic security, whether they are starting at a third grade reading level or have already passed their GED. The Task Force is expected to have its recommendations by June 1, 2015.  

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The second provision added funds to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s Post-Secondary and Career Education Division to provide clinical learning disability assessments for 200 adult learners. Why is this important? We know that students with disabilities are more likely to drop out of school, and thus are disproportionately represented in the adult learner population. People with documented learning disabilities are eligible for accommodations when they take high school equivalency and industry certification exams. For example, just as a blind student might be provided a computer that will read questions aloud, a student with a learning disability that affects memory might need additional time to complete a math test that relies on memorization of math facts. Without appropriate assessments and documentation, adults with learning disabilities may fail exams that they would otherwise be able to pass. However, it is not sufficient just to know that someone has a disability. The specific areas of disability must be named and must justify the specific accommodations requested. Good information about specific learning deficits has benefits in addition to test accommodations: instructors can use it to tailor instruction to help adults with disabilities master necessary skills.

We will be monitoring the implementation of these investments to ensure they produce better results for adult learners in the District. 

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