Testimony of Soumya Bhat, Education Finance and Policy Analyst, At the Public Education Hearing on B20-309, The Fair Student Funding and School-Based Budgeting Act of 2013

Chairman Catania and members of the Education 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 Bill 20-309, the Fair Student Funding and School-Based Budgeting Act of 2013.

  • We strongly support the supplemental weight for low-income students, and we encourage the Council to take into account the results of the DC Public Education Adequacy Study to determine the exact amount for the weight.
  • We appreciate the intent of requiring a certain percentage of DCPS local funds go directly to school budgets, but we have questions about setting rigid requirements.
  • We support creating ways to create additional flexibility for the school system and have some recommendations for the best way to do that.
  • Given that every school budget allocation model has strengths and weaknesses, we feel that is best not to legislate it. Instead, the best approach to assure responsible allocation of funding to schools is through appropriate oversight.

Increased Investments for Low-Income Students

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute strongly supports the bill’s goal of investing additional local resources into the education of our low-income students through an amendment to the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF). Research shows us that children who grow up in poverty face a number of challenges outside the classroom — from housing instability to low levels of parent engagement — that affect their ability to learn in the classroom. Increasing funds for these students makes good sense.

We also think it is a good thing that the bill does not specify the amount of supplemental weight to be given to these students. We recommend the results of the Deputy Mayor for Education’s DC Public Education Adequacy Study, be taken into account. The year-long study, which has incorporated professional judgment panels and focus groups into its process, is expected to be completed in September.

To read the complete testimony, click here.