The ABCs of Next Year’s DC Public Education Budget

May 24th, 2013 | by Soumya Bhat

The revival of a stand-alone DC Council Committee on Education certainly had an impact on next year’s schools budget. While some have criticized the Committee’s hands-on approach, DCFPI thinks the combination of agency oversight and committed parents, school advocates, and community members providing valuable testimony and input resulted in several important education investments for next year.

What is the end result?

Among the most talked about items, next year’s budget restored money to keep 20 DCPS school budgets stable, funded full-time librarians for newly defined “small schools,” and re-established an Office of Ombudsman for Public Education.

More Schools Will Have a Full-Time Librarian

The budget approved by the Council this week keeps a full-time librarian in schools that had one this year, even if it is newly categorized as a “small school.” This became a point of controversy due to a change DCPS made in how small schools were categorized. Small schools get a part-time librarian, while large schools get a full-time one. For fiscal year 2014, the enrollment level used by DCPS to define a “small school” increased from under 300 students to under 400 students, meaning that schools of 300-400 students stood to shift to having a part-time librarian. The Education Committee’s actions stopped that from happening.

The Committee on Education identified approximately $4.5 million to restore full-time librarians and help stabilize funding for schools. About $3.14 million was applied toward “instructional programs” to ensure no DCPS school would face more than a 5 percent reduction in its gross school budget from FY 2013 to FY 2014, enhance summer school and summer bridge options, and supplement library services. This was approved by the full Council in its vote earlier this week.

Office of Ombudsman Returns and Deputy Mayor for Education Money Restored

The budget passed by the Council restored funding for the Deputy Mayor for Education despite a recommendation by the Committee to severely cut positions.

During mark-ups, the Committee on Education took $358,000 from the Deputy Mayor to fund several things: a liaison at the Public Charter School Board who will focus on education planning and coordination of service delivery between traditional public schools and charter schools; a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program at H.D. Woodson High School; and to re-establish the Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education within the State Board of Education.

In the end, the full Council voted this week to keep the Deputy Mayor’s staffing intact while still funding the Ombudsman, liaison position, and STEM program. This allows the Deputy Mayor’s office to work on key issues such as truancy prevention, disconnected youth, and early childhood education.

The Deputy Mayor’s capital budget was also impacted during mark-ups. The Committee shifted $6 million in funding and the responsibility of implementing a statewide Student Information System from the Deputy Mayor’s capital budget to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. In addition, $6 million of other capital funds for the Deputy Mayor’s office will be used to support construction of a language immersion middle/high public charter school in FY 2014.  

For more information, keep checking DCFPI’s budget toolkit page, where we will post updates across issue areas to reflect the Council’s final budget decisions.

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