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.
DCFPI appreciates the efforts that this committee has undertaken to address the issues keeping our school system from achieving its full potential. Legislative oversight is an important function, and each of these bills should be adequately explored with the larger community. We also appreciate your indication, Chairman Catania, that these bills are intended to be the start of a conversation on a number of critical issues.
I will focus my remarks today on Bill 20-310, the Individual School Accountability Act of 2013, and on the following three principles:
- We support ensuring that DC Public Schools has the ability to intervene when schools are performing poorly.
- We support giving flexibility to school leaders who have innovative ideas as one tool to spur improvement.
- We hope and believe public schools can be successful without waiving local regulations or collective bargaining agreements.
The bill’s goal is to provide a local framework to hold underperforming schools accountable and provide the Chancellor with two options to turnaround schools. We agree that there is much to be done to lift our lowest performing schools to higher levels of academic proficiency, as we have documented in our research. At the same time, we have some questions and concerns about the specific provisions for creating Innovation Schools.