Testimony of Soumya Bhat, Education Finance and Policy Analyst, At the Public Hearing on Review of School Closures within the District of Columbia Public Schools and Bill 19-734, School Boundary Review Act

| November 20th, 2012 | PDF of this report

Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Soumya Bhat, and I am the Education Finance and Policy Analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. DCFPI engages in research and public education on the fiscal and economic health of the District of Columbia, with a particular emphasis on policies that affect low- and moderate-income residents. 

I am here today to offer input on Chancellor Henderson’s proposed plan to close and consolidate 20 DC public schools in the next year. I would like to focus my testimony on the following key questions: 

  1. What does DCPS project to be the cost savings of closing these 20 schools?
  2. What are the plans for these savings – how will the extra funds be applied to boost staffing and other resources at the consolidated schools or across the system?
  3. What efforts are being made to improve planning and coordination between DCPS and the Public Charter School Board?  

 Almost all of the 20 schools in the DCPS proposal enroll fewer than 250 students, and the Chancellor cites school size as one of the main barriers to being able to provide adequate staff and resources at the individual school level. They maintain that our city’s larger, fully enrolled DCPS schools are subsidizing the small, under-enrolled schools which often need additional support to fund core staff positions. As a result, the system faces budget pressures like the loss of funding for librarians for small schools in the fiscal year 2013 budget. The Chancellor argues that closing smaller schools will enable the city to provide better services to all students. 

Given these claims, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute feels it is important for DCPS to quantify the cost savings that may result from closing these 20 schools to better understand if the consolidation plan is an effective strategy, given the disruption and other possible negative consequences of school closings. To our knowledge, DCPS has not quantified what it expects to save in total from school closures or what the transition costs may be. Without that information, it is hard to assess whether school closures make sense.

To read the full testimony, click here.