Testimony for B25-0069


May 25, 2023

Jessica Giles
Executive Director
Education Reform Now Advocacy

The Committee on Public Works & Operations Public Hearing on:

B25-0069 – “District of Columbia Public Schools Procurement Authority Amendment Act of 2023″


Good morning, Chairperson Nadeau, members and staff of the Committee on Public Works & Operations. My name is Jessica Giles. I am a ward seven resident and the Executive Director of Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERNA). ERNA is fighting for a just and equitable public education system for all students in Washington, D.C. Although we understand the intent of this legislation, we oppose B25-0069, the “District of Columbia Public Schools Procurement Authority Amendment Act of 2023.″

Repealing D.C. Public Schools’ (DCPS) independent procurement authority would create a bureaucratic nightmare and lead to extensive delays in providing critical goods, services, and resources to our students. DCPS is the largest local education agency (LEA) in the District, and moving its massive procurement needs under an already bloated agency would slow procurement down. In the past, when DCPS was forced to outsource approval of contracts, school openings were delayed, and urgent repairs went unfixed.¹ We don’t want to go back to the days when teachers didn’t have books, paper, or pencils in their classrooms. Those were tough days and led to the critical reforms we have now that have yielded progress in students’ academic achievement.

Clearly, DCPS has not complied with the law that requires D.C. agencies to submit contracts valued at $1 million or more to the D.C. Council for approval before being awarded to vendors. DCPS must take immediate corrective action to put accountability measures in place. And, the D.C. Council should continue to provide oversight of this process.

Every LEA has its own independent procurement authority, and DCPS should not be treated differently. If anything, DCPS principals should be given more autonomy to provide their students with the resources and services they need, not be mired down in additional red tape.

For these reasons, we strongly oppose B25-0069, the “District of Columbia Public Schools Procurement Authority Amendment Act of 2023″ and ask that the Committee reconsider this legislation. Thank you for letting me submit written testimony.


¹Children in Crisis: The Failure of Public Education in the District. District of Columbia Financial
Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority. November 12, 1996.


Testimony for April DC State Board of Education Public Meeting


April 26, 2023

Public Meeting

Jessica Giles
Executive Director
Education Reform Now D.C.

Greetings Executive Director Butler, Representatives, Student Representatives, and D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) staff. My name is Jessica Giles. I am a ward seven resident and the Executive Director of Education Reform Now D.C. (ERN DC). ERN D.C. is a non-profit organization fighting for a just and equitable public education system for all students in Washington, D.C. 

Thank you to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and SBOE for holding many opportunities for the public to engage in the revision of the Social Studies Standards. In February, ERN DC submitted public comment to the OSSE and public testimony to the SBOE recommending essential changes that are needed to the Social Studies Standards. Several of our recommendations were accepted, including providing more clarity on how teachers implement the Social Studies standards in practice, diversifying the list of feminist scholars and thought leaders, and addressing the role that enslaving Black people played in the development of the District’s institutions. We hope OSSE and SBOE move swiftly to approve these standards. 

Additionally, I would like the State Board and the State Level and Systemic Policy Committee, in particular, to focus on two additional vital topics this year.


The Need: 51 percent of students enroll in a two or four-year college. However, only 8 out of 100 9th-grade students will complete a postsecondary degree within six  years of high school graduation. 58 percent of D.C.’s job market requires a postsecondary degree, yet only 26 percent of D.C. residents aged 18 to 34 who were born here have a postsecondary degree, compared to 70 percent of those who moved here. Dual enrollment has a significant effect on 2-year and 4-year college enrollment, degree attainment, and early labor market earnings six years after high school, with stronger effects for students who are traditionally underrepresented. 

About Dual Enrollment: An estimated 10% of the student population uses dual enrollment opportunities. It needs to be clarified what percentage of students receive college credit. Bard High School Early College provides 377 students with an opportunity to graduate high school with an associate’s degree. In the fall of 2022, the Mayor’s office launched the Advanced Technical Center, which offers nearly 100 students the opportunity to take up to 20 college courses free of charge in cybersecurity, general nursing, and health information technology over a two-year period. In addition, over 450 students are taking dual enrollment courses at local Institutions of Higher Education (IHE). Many of these students have to take the course virtually or attend the course in person at the IHEs, which is time-consuming. Please note: the location of some LEAs and bus schedules can make it quite impossible for some students to participate meaningfully in in-person dual enrollment courses. Additionally, the difficulties that students face enduring long commutes to and from their classes create significant barriers to access, especially for students with the least financial means who are also least likely to attend school near colleges or universities that offer in-person dual enrollment. Further, three charter LEAs and 9 D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) schools do not offer any dual enrollment opportunities at all. 

In March 2022, the Deputy Mayor for Education partnered with the College in High School Alliance to develop a District of Columbia Dual Enrollment Needs Assessment Action Plan. Recommendations from this action plan are listed below:

  • Engage in a Process to Understand DC Student & Parent Perspectives on Dual Enrollment
  • Develop a Comprehensive Dual Enrollment Ecosystem Map for DC
  • Continue to Build DC Dual Enrollment Data Availability & Tools For Use
  • Formalize and Expand OSSE’s Dual Enrollment Community of Practice
  • Consider Alternative Program Models and State Funding Mechanisms for Dual Enrollment
  • Expand Dual Enrollment Course Options and Dual Crediting of Class Experiences
  • Provide Tools and Resources to School Counselors & Other Dual Enrollment Practitioners
  • Develop a Student, Parent, and Caregiver Friendly Web Portal for DC Dual Enrollment

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education deserves some credit for progress made on understanding student and parent perspectives regarding dual enrollment and increasing the number of seats offered, but the Mayor’s proposed FY2024 budget includes no additional investments in dual enrollment opportunities and we are already behind on the timeline for completing the recommendations. 

Furthermore, there are two important issues I would like the Committee to pay special attention to:

  • The need for expanding in-person cohort-based dual enrollment courses in the District. A successful example includes the Bard Sequence, which is currently offered at Idea Public Charter School and Thurgood Marshall Public Charter School.
  • Students must have more opportunities to receive high school credit for their college courses. DC is an outlier in this regard, and it is incredibly inefficient. 


The Need: Currently, D.C. does not require students to learn personal financial literacy skills, and too few schools offer it. Financial literacy concepts such as earning income, spending, saving, investing, managing credit, and managing risk are all information that D.C’s students must learn to succeed in school, life, and career.

Additionally, students need to learn how to become an entrepreneur, better understand career paths, and labor market opportunities during the “income” segment. 

The Colorado Department of Education summarizes personal financial literacy as the following “[it] applies the economic way of thinking to help individuals understand how to manage their scarce resources using a logical decision-making process of prioritization based on analysis of the costs and benefits of every choice.” Currently, ten states offer financial literacy as a part of the social studies standards. While OSSE is not revising the social studies standards to include additional financial literacy standards, OSSE should develop and adopt standalone financial literacy standards as soon as possible. We urge OSSE and SBOE to prioritize these two issues this year. 

Thank you for allowing me to testify today.

ERN Testifies in Support of Behavioral Health Services and Dual Enrollment


April 14, 2023

DC Council, Committee of the Whole
Budget Oversight Hearing

Joshua Davis
Student Civic Leader
Bard High School Early College DC

Good afternoon Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole. My name is Joshua Davis, and I am a senior at Bard High School Early College DC and a civic leader for Education Reform Now DC. Today, I am here to speak about two critical issues pertinent to this year’s budget: school based behavior health and dual enrollment.

Firstly, I want to commend Bard for its commitment to students’ mental health. During my freshman year, I struggled with anxiety that stemmed from the pressure to succeed academically. This anxiety negatively impacted my grades and overall well-being. Thankfully, Bard’s resources, including counseling sessions with a school-based mental health professional, allowed me to access the support I needed to overcome that anxiety. This experience has empowered me to speak before you today.

You all have been witness to the countless stories recounted by my peers and other advocates regarding the mental health challenges students face. The connection between trauma and the cycles of violence in DC is clear, and mental health services are a key component for addressing these issues. To ensure that all students have the support they need today, we must start by increasing funding for school-based behavioral health services to $3.45M in the FY24 budget. This will ensure that schools can provide at least one clinician in every public school to support all of my peers.

Additionally, DC must create opportunities for students to earn a degree in fields such as psychology, social work, or human services. It’s time we create a local pipeline of future social workers, counselors, and psychologists by creating a Master of Social Work program at UDC and providing scholarships to make the MSW and Master of Counseling programs free for DC residents and those who work in DC. I urge the committee to hold a hearing on the  “Pathways to Behavioral Health Degrees Act of 2023.”

Secondly, I want to touch on dual enrollment. It is concerning that only 8 out of 100 students in DC will go on to complete postsecondary education within six years after high school.[1] Research shows that students participating in dual enrollment programs are more likely to enroll in and complete college.[2] Bard has been around since 2018 and partners with several local colleges and universities, including George Washington University and Georgetown University, to allow credits to transfer in various subjects. I will graduate with an associates degree. As a dual enrollment program participant, I have gained invaluable experience and confidence in my ability to succeed in higher education. We have the data, the stories, and the resources, there is no reason why every student in DC should not have that same opportunity.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize the importance of mental health and dual enrollment and how Bard High School has been leading in addressing these issues. I strongly urge the DC Council to increase funding to ensure every school has one clinician and for the Committee of the Whole to hold a hearing on B25-0055, “Pathways to Behavioral Health Degrees Act of 2023.”  Thank you for your time and attention.

ERN DC Advocates for Mental Health Services in DC Schools


April 14, 2023

DC Council, Committee of the Whole
Budget Oversight Hearing

Sherri Daniels
Civic Leader
Education Reform Now DC

Honorable Chairman Mendelson and esteemed members of the Committee of the Whole, greetings. My name is Sherri Daniels, I am a proud resident of Ward 8 with a masters degree in psychology, a community caseworker, and a prominent civic leader for Education Reform Now DC. Today, I speak before you as someone who has experienced firsthand the critical importance of mental health services in our schools. As a DC native, my own journey to receiving mental health support began in high school, much like the students I serve today.

Growing up in the District, I experienced the adversities of becoming aware of and accessing the mental health services I desperately needed. It wasn’t until high school that I was introduced to a school clinician who, despite being overburdened and burnt out, inspired me to become a psychologist. This personal encounter underscored a persistent issue in our schools: the overwhelming workload placed on a single clinician is simply too much work for one person to manage effectively.

The connection between trauma and student engagement in DC highlights the importance of school-based behavioral health (SBBH) services for improving academic performance and overall well-being. However, the 2022 DC Health Matters assessment emphasizes the urgent need for workforce development, with a 21% average vacancy rate among DC Behavioral Health Association member organizations.

To address vacancy issues and our urgent need for workforce development, I implore the Committee of the Whole to take the following actions:

1. Increase funding for school-based behavioral health services to $3.45 million to ensure stable compensation per clinician.
2. Convene a hearing on B25-55, the “Pathways to Behavioral Health Degrees Act of 2023.”

This bill will lower the financial barrier for people of color to enter a field that requires more clinicians with cultural competency. A 2020 report found that 22% of new social workers were Black/African American, and 14% were Hispanic/Latino.  Additionally, a 2016 community needs assessment conducted by the District of Columbia Healthy Communities Collaborative identified cultural competency as a priority need, for behavioral health specialists working with children in Wards 7 and 8.  Holding a public hearing would be a step in the right direction to address the District’s long-term

Our children’s mental health is a critical component of their overall well-being and academic success. By investing in the school based behavior health and supporting initiatives like the :Pathways to Behavioral Health Degrees Act of 2023,” we can create a brighter future for every student in the District.

Thank you for your time and consideration.