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New Study Reveals $740 Million DC School Funding Shortfall Over Seven Years

Inadequate funding hit Black and brown students in Wards 7 and 8 hardest

Washington, DC – A new report released today by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute uncovers a $740 million gap over the last seven years between actual funding for DC’s public and public charter schools and the level that would be considered minimally adequate. The report, “Educational Equity Requires an Adequate School Budget: Steps to Fund Educational Success in the District,” makes the case that the education budget continues to fail the students it’s meant to serve—and puts the onus on policymakers to do better.

Hit hardest by the cuts are Black and brown students whose schools need the money most—those attending schools east of the Anacostia River.

“DC’s education budget continues to fall far below what experts say is adequate and does not keep up with rising costs year-to-year,” said Alyssa Noth, Education Policy Analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI). “This disconnect leads to forced budget cuts and budget choices that disproportionally impact low-income students.”

The District commissioned a 2013 study of what it would take to adequately fund its schools, and the city has not met the target in any of the seven years since that report was finished. DCFPI’s reports adds up the cumulative adequacy shortfall. In the wake of the shortfalls, DCPS has diverted half of the funds intended to support students at risk of academic failure, and this year made deep budget cuts to 19 schools, 15 of them in Ward 7 and Ward 8.

The report calls for policymakers to correct past choices and stop intentionally underfunding the city’s schools. Noth recommends both short- and long-term solutions, which include a two-year plan that would close the gap, and a new staffing model.

“The Mayor and DC Council both have a role to play in building a better budget,” said Noth. “A rational budget-setting process is the first step in supporting the 94,000 public school students that show up to school every day eager and capable of learning at high levels.”

The report is the first of a four-part series on education funding in the District. The series will analyze budget adequacy, practices, and why money matters for academic achievement.


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