Ensuring Lawmakers Fully Fund All DC Schools This Budget Season: 4 Facts You Need to Know

It’s officially school budget season! Earlier this month, Mayor Bowser announced a four percent increase in the funding formula for DC schools for the upcoming 2020-21 school year. DC Public Schools (DCPS) followed by releasing its proposed school level budgets.

Here are four facts you need to know heading into budget season:

  1. The Mayor made a strong investment in DC education, but more money is needed to put the city’s education budget on a path to full adequacy. The Mayor’s announcement to increase the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) by four percent—one of the largest increases in recent years—is a step in the right direction toward ensuring all DC students have the resources they need to thrive. However, DCFPI identified a seven percent adequacy gap between the fiscal year (FY) 2020 UPSFF base and the amount recommended in the DC Education Adequacy Study (Adequacy Study).[1] To close the current gap in two years, District leaders should increase the UPSFF base by 3.5 percent, plus a projected inflation rate of 2.5 percent for an overall 6 percent increase in FY 2021.
  2. The supplemental money for students considered “at-risk” of academic failure remains inadequate. The District currently provides an additional $2,470 for each student who is “at risk”—this is 40 percent lower than the level recommended by school finance experts in the DC Education Adequacy Study. Policymakers should do more to address the large and unacceptable disparities in outcomes for students who are low-income, experiencing homelessness, or behind a grade level in high school—many of whom are Black or Latinx. By increasing the at-risk weight of the UPSFF to the level recommended in the Adequacy Study, District leaders would provide public and public charter schools an additional $4,200 to $4,300 per at-risk student, depending on the final UPSFF base.
  3. DCPS improved the transparency around required versus flexible positions in school budgets. DCPS school budgets for the upcoming school year clearly delineate which positions are required by DCPS central office, and which positions principals and Local School Advisory Teams (LSATs) can request to change to best meet the needs of their students. This is important because all stakeholders should have consistent information about what positions they can advocate for in individual school budgets.
  4. DCPS removed critical information about at-risk funding in the new school budgets. In years prior, DCPS delineated which positions are funded using at-risk funds. Choosing to remove this information is a step backwards in transparency because it is difficult to determine whether DCPS is allocating at-risk funds proportional to each school’s projected at-risk enrollment, as required by law. We urge DCPS to include at-risk funded positions in the final submitted budgets—which the Chancellor will make public after Council votes on the overall budget—and give LSATs an opportunity to weigh in on their school’s budget.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be testifying before policymakers to raise these important issues to help ensure that the FY 2021 budget fully funds all public schools. To learn more about the DC budget process and how you can get involved, read our Residents’ Guide to the DC Budget.

[1] The Finance Project, Augenblick, Palich and Associates, “Cost of Student Achievement: Report of the DC Education Adequacy Study,” District of Columbia Deputy Mayor for Education, December 20, 2013, https://dme.dc.gov/page/dc-education-adequacy-study.