Bowser ‘con­fi­dent’ school bud­get suf­fi­cient

Gray: Slim fund­ing re­verses needed re­form

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY RYAN M. MCDER­MOTT

Ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cates on Mon­day called on the D.C. Coun­cil to re­ject Mayor Muriel Bowser’s per-stu­dent fund­ing in­crease for next year, say­ing it falls far short of what city schools need.

“Now, more than ever, we must make the in­vest­ments nec­es­sary to en­sure that ev­ery stu­dent — on both sides of the river and both sides of the park — have the re­sources and sup­port they need to be suc­cess­ful,” said Markus Batch­e­lor, Ward 8 rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the D.C. State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Mr. Batch­e­lor said schools in his ward need ex­tra fund­ing to be “equipped with the tools nec­es­sary to close gaps in aca­demic achieve­ment, stu­dent wellness and fam­ily sup­port.”

The mayor’s fiscal 2018 bud­get calls for a 1.5 per­cent in­crease in per-pupil pay­ment to D.C. Pub­lic Schools.

But that pro­posal is less than the 2 per­cent in­crease that has been the stan­dard in the city over the last 10 years. Cur­rently, base fund­ing per stu­dent is nearly $10,000 be­fore fac­tor­ing in funds for spe­cial needs or at-risk stu­dents.

Miss Bowser and other city of­fi­cials have de­fended the bud­get re­gard­ing ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing. At a press con­fer­ence after she had pre­sented the bud­get to the coun­cil, the mayor said she was “very con­fi­dent that we are re­spond­ing to the needs of our schools.”

Schools Chan­cel­lor Ant­wan Wil­son echoed Miss Bowser, telling The Wash­ing­ton Post that he is “con­fi­dent that we have what we need.”

And City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Rashad Young told re­porters be­fore the bud­get an­nounce­ment that it had to bal­ance sev­eral pri­or­i­ties, in­clud­ing a ris­ing num­ber of stu­dents in the sys­tem.

Groups like the D.C. Fiscal Pol­icy In­sti­tute and Democrats for Ed­u­ca­tion Re­form have pointed to rec­om­men­da­tions from Miss Bowser’s own ed­u­ca­tion ad­vis­ers who said the city needs to raise its per-stu­dent fund­ing.

The D.C. Of­fice of the State Su­per­in­ten­dent for Ed­u­ca­tion (OSSE) rec­om­mended a 3.5 per­cent in­crease, but most ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cates said they would have set­tled for the stan­dard 2 per­cent hike.

In a Jan­uary re­port to the coun­cil, OSSE said the city should raise the per-pupil base rate from $9,682 to $10,021 to keep up with stu­dents’ needs.

A 3.5 per­cent in­crease would pro­vide the proper fund­ing and “the great­est flex­i­bil­ity to meet the di­verse needs of the great­est num­ber of schools, and schools with vary­ing de­mo­graphic pop­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing al­ter­na­tive schools, char­ter schools and DCPS schools,” the OSSE re­port says.

If city of­fi­cials think the District can’t fund a 3.5 per­cent in­crease, the D.C. Fiscal Pol­icy In­sti­tute said there’s money to be had in the tax cuts set to be trig­gered by the District’s re­cent eco­nomic pros­per­ity. The pro­gres­sive think tank said the city should “de­lay some or all of the sched­uled tax cuts if that is needed to ad­e­quately sup­port schools.”

And Democrats for Ed­u­ca­tion Re­form said that even the stan­dard 2 per­cent in­crease would go a long way.

“By fail­ing to in­crease per-pupil spend­ing by at least 2 per­cent, city lead­ers would short­change our stu­dents: teach­ers would lose jobs, cru­cial ex­tracur­ric­u­lars would face cuts, and school bud­gets would not keep pace with ris­ing in­fla­tion,” the group said.

The coun­cil, which is hold­ing hear­ings to eval­u­ate each agency’s bud­get, has the author­ity to change Miss Bowser’s per-pupil fund­ing.

The Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee is to hold a pub­lic hear­ing next week to hear from res­i­dents about the mayor’s schools bud­get, but at least one law­maker al­ready is beat­ing the drum for a per-pupil fund­ing in­crease.

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