The Districts Dime

WHAT’S IN MAYOR GRAY’S FY 2015 PROPOSED BUDGET?

April 18th, 2014 | by Jenny Reed

Today, DCFPI releases its budget toolkit, your in-depth guide to the proposed FY 2015 budget.  Our toolkit breaks down how Mayor Gray proposes to allocate local funds and analyzes how the proposed budget will impact education, health care, affordable housing, taxes and more.4-18-14-fy15-budget-blog

On April 3rd, Mayor Gray submitted his budget proposal for fiscal year 2015, which starts October 1, 2014. The proposed general fund budget — the portion of the DC budget that comes from local taxes and fees, including dedicated tax revenue and special purpose funds — is $7.72 billion — a $302 million, or 4 percent increase over FY 2014, after adjusting for inflation. 

The budget would make investments across DC government in a number of critical areas, particularly education, health care, cash assistance for families with children and affordable housing. The largest increases from FY 2014 to FY 2015 include funds to cover: repayments of debt issued for construction and other capital projects; increases in enrollment in publicly funded schools and new supplemental funding for at-risk students; increases in mental health services; increases for maintain, operating and leasing DC government buildings, and other mayoral policy priorities that will be discussed in greater detail.   

The proposed budget also includes a variety of changes to taxes and fees that would result in a $27 million reduction in revenues, equal to about one-third of one percent of the city’s locally funded budget. The proposed revenue changes would start to implement a number of recommendations issued by the DC Tax Revision Commission in February 2014 as well as a number of changes that were not recommended by the commission. 

Despite the many investments in the budget, some areas remain left behind. The proposed budget appears to cut funding for homeless families services despite the tremendous increase in families seeking shelter this past winter.  

To read more about the overall budget, or in-depth analyses of funding for education, health care, energy assistance, affordable housing, workforce development, or taxes, check out our toolkit website. We also have a spreadsheet that tracks funding across agencies from FY 2000 — FY 2015; use it to do your own budget analysis! And check back next week for more detailed information on the budgets for homeless services, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Interim Disability Assistance.

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Where Does the Money Go? – A Resource Map for the District’s Disconnected Youth Dollars

April 17th, 2014 | by Amy Dudas, DC Alliance for Youth Advocates

4-17-14 blogWith the intent to outline the funding streams that sustain reconnection opportunities for DC youth, the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA), in partnership with The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, releases “Connecting Youth to Opportunity: A Resource Map for the District’s Disconnected Youth Dollars.” The network of services navigated by disconnected youth is complex, with the District offering several programs and services across eight city agencies. The resource map is a tool for those seeking to utilize the District’s resources most effectively and to understand the complexities behind funding this unique, at-risk population. So what does this initial roadmap tell us about DC’s inventory of reconnection services? DCAYA has three key take-aways:

First, while cross agency coordination has improved to a degree, there still remains room for improvement. In order to capture the dynamic needs of youth and maximize investments in our public systems, agencies must collaborate to share services, expertise, and resources. One example, which is seen in the funding map, is the Pathways for Young Adults program. The Department of Employment Services (DOES) is partnering with the Community College of the District of Columbia (UDCC) to address the needs of disconnected youth by supplementing traditional occupational training with the chance to learn key life skills. Intentional partnerships between our workforce system and sister agencies is necessary if we are going to build a comprehensive and efficient workforce development system that youth can readily access and transition through as their needs evolve.

Second, the resource map also reveals a severe scarcity of year-round programming specific to disconnected young people. While $12,000,000 is spent on the six-week-long Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), less than $5,000,000 is slated for year-round workforce development training for out-of-school youth. Even though adult training programs are available for youth over 18, the rate at which youth access these programs is low, given their overrepresentation in our unemployment rate. Higher-need, less-skilled youth require modified programming that meets them where they’re at. We need to invest in year round training and job placement services that are designed to meet the unique needs of the disconnected youth population.

Third, and perhaps one of the most poignant pieces of the map, is the lack of local funding directed to youth who face the greatest risks of disconnection at key points of transition, like aging out of foster care, exiting the juvenile justice system, becoming young parents, or acclimating as first generation immigrations. We know these youth are especially vulnerable to disconnection and the resources and support they require are often a bit different and deeper than their peers. Yet, the District invests less than $1,500,000 in local dollars to these particularly high risk populations, while federal funds only account for $5,191,409 more.

In reviewing the resource roadmap and comparing various agency programs side-by-side, it is easy to see the startling reality of where the gaps and opportunities lie for disconnected youth. By understanding the various funding streams within our system of reconnection foundations, community advocates and policymakers can target future investments and strengthen our ability to intervene early and effectively. Join us in working with the Council to ensure that the 2015 budget includes strategic investments that connect youth to opportunities.

View “Connecting Youth to Opportunity: A Resource Map of the District’s Disconnected Youth Dollars.”   

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Our Thoughts for Tomorrow’s DC Public Schools Budget Hearing

April 16th, 2014 | by Soumya Bhat

4-16-14-DCPS-Testimony-blogTomorrow, DCFPI will join over 60 witnesses to testify at the DC Council’s budget hearing for DC Public Schools (DCPS). There are several promising proposed changes to the school funding formula this year, including a two percent increase to the base level, a new supplement weight for at-risk students, and increased local resources for adult, alternative, English language learner, and special education students. DCFPI is highly supportive of these enhanced local resources, but we want to ensure that the allocation is transparent and that the DCPS schools with the biggest concentrations of need see their share of the city’s educational investments.   

Our review of the budget suggests that the changes are not transparent enough to allow parents and other stakeholders to assess whether their school is getting its fair share of education resources. 

You can find the full testimony here. See below for a few highlights: 

Lack of Transparency for At-Risk Funds: DCFPI is excited about the $44 million in funding for 21,000 at-risk DCPS students through the school funding formula, but concerned that the proposed budget does not show how or where at-risk funds would be spent. The new funds appear to be wrapped up in a number of initiatives – see the next point – but there is no strict accounting of how the new funds will be targeted to help at-risk students. Moreover, there are clear instances where schools with large concentrations of at-risk students – such as Anacostia High School – would not see much of an increase next year. 

Several New Initiatives for DCPS Schools: The proposed DCPS budget would offer extended school day options for all middle schools and the lowest 40 performing elementary schools.  Some $5.7 million is proposed to lengthen the school day to 4:15pm for four days a week at 52 schools, provided teachers support it. “Proving What’s Possible” student satisfaction awards, totaling $4.8 million across schools, would go towards field trips, enrichment activities, and anti-bullying programs. There also are proposed new funds for middle-school curriculum and staffing. However, it is not clear from the budget book whether or not these efforts were supported by the new at-risk funds, or if school leaders had flexibility to determine the best approach for their students. 

New Budget Format for DCPS: This year, the DCPS budget is also being presented in a new format, which includes allocations at the school level and attempts to make the official budget from the CFO better match the way DCPS spends its funds. Readers can now see how DCPS budgeted directly to individual schools, school-wide programs, school support, and central office funding. DCFPI is pleased that the Committee on Education has taken on the issue of school budget transparency head-on, and we look forward to working with them on further transparency improvements, some of which are highlighted in our testimony. 

You can find DCPS’ responses to pre-hearing questions on the Council website: http://dccouncil.us/budget/2015/education.

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Mayor’s FY 2015 Budget Proposes Expansion of Mental Health Services for Students

April 15th, 2014 | by Wes Rivers

Making sure that kids get proper health services is critical to their ability to learn and succeed in school. And with so many youth in the District facing mental health issues, it is particularly important for the District to invest in mental health services for students – as the mayor did with the FY 2015 budget proposal. 

Source:  Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

The need for mental health services is high among the District’s middle and high school students, especially in our poorest and lowest-performing schools. Children in poverty experience a high rate of emotional distress, leading to difficulties in the classroom and to more serious mental health issues later in life. DC Action for Children estimates between 7,200 and 9,200 District children have severe mental health issues. 

The South Capitol Street Memorial Act of 2012 authorized the creation of the school-based mental health program – which places trained mental health professionals in traditional public and public charter schools in DC. The staff offer a range of services, from classroom prevention sessions to more targeted student treatment and family counseling. 

Proposed FY 2015 funding for early childhood and school-based mental health programming is $8.5 million, which includes a $3 million increase to add more school-based mental health professionals and to support projected salary and fringe benefit increases in existing positions. That means 23 more schools could receive services. Additionally, the mayor’s priority funding list, which includes initiatives that would be funded if revenues next year exceed current projections, proposes adding $2 million for 23 more schools, for a total increase of $5 million and 46 new schools next year.  

Lack of funding in the past has made it difficult to create a comprehensive program across the city. Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, only 72 public schools offered mental health screenings, referrals, and counseling to their students, with more than half operating in Wards 6, 7, and 8. The good news is that the program has delivered 2,500 individual counseling sessions so far this school year, and almost 20,000 counseling sessions since the beginning of the 2011-12 school year. However, the program maintains a full-time caseload of only 629 students, despite having almost six times that number in referrals. 

The expansion to 23 new schools would mean that more than 7,200 DCPS and charter school students would have access to services. If the additional schools on the mayor’s priority list are funded, 118 District schools would have access to mental health professionals.  

DCFPI applauds the mayor and the Department of Behavioral Health for addressing a critical need among the District’s youth and a major barrier to educational success. We hope the Council approves the proposed budget for school-based mental health, and prioritizes the mayor’s request for $2 million in additional funding.

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Bringing Our Veterans Home

April 14th, 2014 | by Kate Coventry

Communities around the country have been working hard to end homelessness among veterans by the deadline of 2015 set by the federal government. And now DC is, too! Mayor Gray’s proposed budget for next year puts the District on track to meet this goal, by making a $4.7 million investment in permanent supportive housing for vets. With an additional local investments in 2016, the District will ensure that no one who has served our country will be living on the streets or in shelter for years at a time. 4-14-14-Homeless-vets-f1

Veterans are at particular risk for homelessness. Many become homeless for the same economic reasons as others: unemployment or low wage employment and lack of affordable housing. But a large number of homeless veterans suffer from serious conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, serious physical disabilities, and addiction. These conditions are difficult to manage while homeless, meaning they often get worse and put residents at risk of dying on the streets.  That’s why veterans living in poverty are more than twice as likely to be homeless as other poor single adults. 

The mayor’s investment will serve provide permanent supportive housing using a nationally-proven “Housing First” model that combines housing with supportive services. Starting with stable housing, will help homeless vets improve their physical and mental health, because it is easier for people to address those conditions when they have the foundation of a home. It also will save the city money, by avoiding expensive crisis-related services like emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, and jail. Studies from other jurisdictions have found savings of up to $30,000 per person per year. 

DCFPI is thrilled that the District is creating a way home for our veterans who desperately need it with the fiscal year 2015 budget. To learn more about efforts to combat chronic homelessness, check out www.thewayhomec.org.

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