The way the District determines what goes into the education budget goes against best practices, and Black and brown students must suffer as a result. A new report from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI) reveals that the budgeting tool DC uses to project rising costs fails to take into account current services funding levels, and recently began omitting education altogether.
According to the report, “Raising the Bar: Better Budgeting for a Strong Public Education System,” the CFO’s Current Services Funding Level (CSFL) doesn’t account for the true costs of educating children in DC. Now, the mayor starts school budget planning using the prior year’s budget without identifying factors that may push costs up, like teacher compensation or materials.
“DC’s policymakers have an obligation to make sure that all District students have the resources they need,” said DCFPI Education Policy Analyst Qubilah Huddleston. “They must do a better job of taking into account changes in education costs each year or run the risk of upholding generations of racial and socioeconomic disparities in outcomes in our schools.”
The consequences of the District’s choices are harmful. One example is per-student funding, which has not kept up with rising DCPS teacher costs in two of the last three years. This had led to fewer resources for teachers, classroom supplies, 21st century technology and more, especially in Ward 7 and 8 schools. The impact has been greatest on low-income students. Under the pressures of an inadequate budget, DC Public School officials are diverting a large share of funds meant to provide additional support to students at risk of academic failure to close the gap.
As budget season approaches, DCFPI wants to stress to policymakers the importance of considering every student in making school funding decisions. Huddleston’s recommendations provide a way for District leaders to move the District toward an education budget that reflects the real costs of providing an adequate education to every student.
“By not using the CSFL as a starting point, Mayor Bowser is lowering the bar and reducing transparency,” said Huddleston. “This goes against best practice and shortchanges DC’s students—especially those whose schools need the funds most.”
“Raising the Bar: Better Budgeting for a Strong Public Education System” is the third report in a series from DCFPI on education funding in the District.