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Budget Testimony by Dieter Lehmann Morales

Esteemed Councilmembers,

My name is Dieter Lehmann Morales and I am a second-year 10th Grade history teacher at Columbia Heights Education Campus in Ward 1, where I also represent the neighborhood that I love as chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A. I am here before you this evening - as an educator, EmpowerEd advocate, and proud member of the Washington Teachers Union - to talk about our schools’ budgets.

As we all know by now, our benevolent mayor’s budget was finally released two days ago after much delay - probably because she was too preoccupied negotiating behind closed doors with billionaire CEO Ted Leonis.

And in this budget, we can see what amounts to an educational crime scene:

the early childhood educator pay fund, child care subsidies for families, and the earned income tax credit were all eliminated, and there are drastic reductions to school behavioral health - at a time that this is needed the most. But good thing we saved all that money because now we can give our friends at MPD another $8.7 million dollars to spend on Candy Crush credits as they idle in the bus lanes of my neighborhood.

At CHEC, even though we were spared the level of austerity that other schools in DCPS have had forced on them, we are still not immune to the Mayor’s brash disdain of DC educators.

In fact, we are looking down the barrel at the prospect of having to cut 12 staff positions just to break even. That’s twelve more adults that will be removed from our students’ lives at a time when they need them most.

How, in the midst of a teacher retention crisis that this city refuses to acknowledge, is this possible? Ask yourself: if you were a current or prospective DCPS educator, would you want to teach here? Just to continuously be disrespected and underserved?

But I know how this process works and I know who ultimately holds the purse strings, and that person has made it abundantly clear that teachers are the least of her concern. I know this intimately as someone who not only serves on the WTU Executive Board, but is currently on the negotiating team trying to get a new fair contract from DCPS. And unlike Muriel Bowser, I know that some of you sitting here today do care about us.

But for the rest of you, and this Council as a whole, I have but one humble ask: push back, don’t be afraid to stand up to her and do what’s right.

Don’t fall victim to austerity and ask yourself: what do our priorities say about us as a city when we would rather defund our students’ education instead of funding their future success?

I yield my time.

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