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Laura Fuchs Testimony on DCPS Budget: Don't Cut Public Schools!


Many have said it before, and clearly we will have to say it again: Budgets are moral documents. If DC is serious about investing in our future, in addressing inequities that have been deeply and historically embedded into our District, and in providing our children the opportunities they deserve, then we must invest in our neighborhood public schools in DCPS. Our school budgets are the foundation upon which our entire education programming is built. It is simply not possible to achieve our ambitious and important equity goals as a District without equitable funding.


Unfortunately, we see that the FY25 proposed DCPS budget is as inequitable as ever.

Ward 8 is once again seeing some of the largest cuts. And Ward 7, while overall not seeing the most, is seeing some of the most single extreme cuts in select schools (Ron Brown HS and Kelly Miller MS) while being offset by growth elsewhere in the ward. As we have seen time and time again, equity cannot be achieved if left up solely to a mayor and their central office team – it must be inclusive of the stakeholders and those who are actually implementing the policy – and we cannot operate in the dark.


Upon examination of the budgets that were released, here is what I can’t understand:

Explain to me how DCPS has gotten a “record” UPSFF, and is projecting an increase in 791 students enrolled in our schools can lead to a net 200+ Full Time Educators losing their jobs in those same schools?

And this number does not capture the whole of it. Really over 373 educators will be losing their jobs at the school they are in and will have to try to find positions at another institution, causing disruption at over 70 schools.


17 schools (see below in order of largest percentage loss to least) are seeing a loss of over 10% of their full time employees. 47% of those schools are in Wards 7 and 8. This is an extreme and disproportionate disruption to these schools that should be receiving more investment not less and cannot be allowed to move forward.


Another 26 schools are seeing over 5% of their Full Time Employees being cut. 25 more (not listed) are cutting between 0-5% of their FTEs. We could also look at the data and see that over 85 schools are seeing less FTE growth than student population growth, meaning they too will be asking to do more with less, even if they are not necessarily facing a cut to their staffing or budgets.



Neighborhood public schools are the foundation of our society and our future. When are we going to be serious about making sure that they are receiving and spending the money that they deserve to benefit all of our students?


Year after year educators are cut from our schools as central office and school-based administrations often grow. (Data below provided by Mary Levy).


They’re not alone. In DCPS 77 schools will be cutting back on how much they can spend. From research provided by the WTU: This loss of purchasing power is over $1 M for 24 schools (range $1.0 to $4.5 M); 10 more lost $750K-$1 M. Average loss is $784,986, the equivalent of six teachers. Forty of the 77 affected schools are gaining enrollment. 


We can’t retain teachers if we can’t retain a budget. We can’t implement SEL if we can’t retain a budget. We can’t build trust in our feeder patterns, especially East of the River, if we aren’t fully funding them. DCPS central office has consistently grown in size and cost – they should cut back on their spending instead of robbing our local schools to continue their opaque programming.


This attitude towards what matters – upper management over direct services – is endemic to the education reform culture that was brought in by Michelle Rhee and has been continued by every successive Chancellor who has openly shared their attitude that central office is what drives important changes, not educators with students. While DCPS Central office continues to expand their spending, all the while hiding where it is actually going, our schools have made consistent cuts to services we can provide our services that are far bigger than is warranted by our student population.


Ultimately, we put our money where our mouths are, and the decision-making process of how that money gets spent is one of the cornerstones of that democracy.

Despite promises that are made every single year to make the process “more transparent,” DC has yet to deliver on that promise in either DCPS or the Charter Schools. I was able to pull this data from information released yesterday while being asked to testify today.


The situation is dire. Several of our middle schools East of the River: Kelly Miller, Kramer, Sousa, and more are facing extreme budget cuts. These cuts are not entirely visible and this is in large part due to the lack of real transparency in DCPS and the endless spin from the Mayor’s team.

 

If you look at the published budget sheet Kelly Miller is slated to lose around $360k from last year. When you look at Sousa’s budget they are actually slated to gain over $42k. Doesn’t seem so completely catastrophic. But when Sousa had to discuss how to budget for this school year they are talking about cutting positions off of every single grade level. So when schools have their LSAT meetings one might wonder why is it that they are talking about cutting up to 9 school personnel and likely slashing non-personnel spending.


Seeing this disinvestment in Middle Schools East of the River is extremely destabilizing for the entire feeder pattern. If we look at HD Woodson’s feeder pattern we see some examples of investment, but how can families invest in the entire PreK-12 Pipeline if their middle school is being systemically disinvested in?


We can see the same problem is exacerbated in Ward 8 for Anacostia HS and Ballou HS who are seeing almost their entire feeder patterns receiving major cuts.



DCPS Needs to follow the DC Auditors recommendations and keep one set of books that is open and completely transparent. What a principal sees at their school level should be the same thing an LSAT chair sees and should be the same thing the Council sees. We waste endless amounts of time with multiple books where nobody knows what is true and what isn’t – even the people who are tasked and paid very well for creating them.


Ultimately though none of this will matter if DCPS is allowed to flout the law with zero consequences. The Council needs to use its budgetary authority to force DCPS to follow the laws that are being written by this body. My suggestion – hold the pay of all Central Office employees until the requirements are verifiably met. We have allowed countless students to be underserved, educators who work directly with students to lose their livelihoods and an expanding “achievement” and resource gap under the watch of mayoral control. Enough is enough. This body took on the role of the school board when they empowered the Mayor and removed all authority from the school board. This is on you as much as it is on the Mayor.


DC Council Testimony of DC Public School Budgets:

Laura Fuchs - HD Woodson Teacher, Secretary of the Washington Teachers’ Union, Co-Chair of the DC Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (DC-CORE), Secretary of the Board of Empower DC, Ward 5 Resident

Delivered: Thursday, April 4, 2024

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