DC State Board of Education – Public Meeting 2/16/22
Democrats for Education Reform DC
Thank you and good evening Executive Director Hayworth, President Sutter, Vice President Thompson and members of the State Board of Education.
My name is Nikki D’Angelo, and I am a Ward 5 resident and DC Public Schools (DCPS) parent. I’ve been working in education in DC for the last 14 years, originally as an educator and now as a Community Organizer. I am testifying on behalf of Democrats for Education Reform DC (DFER DC). I am pleased to testify today about my own personal experiences in the public education system as well as share what I’ve heard from community members across the District. I hope to offer unique perspectives, insights and solutions.
STRONG PROPOSED INVESTMENTS IN PUBLIC EDUCATION
I will begin by applauding the mayor for her proposal to increase the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) to 5.9 percent, provide $38 million for school stabilization funding for both sectors, and raise substitute teacher pay. These investments indicate that the mayor understands how expensive it is to provide a high-quality education in Washington DC, and that the current funding levels are not enough for students, families, educators, and schools.
In addition, I applaud DC Public schools on their adaptation of a new budget model, which we are still analyzing. A student-based budgeting model seeks to place student needs at the forefront of how funding is allocated and should be based primarily on enrollment of schools and the need levels of those populations. Additionally, additional funding is given to schools based on enrollment of Special Education students, English language learners and students considered “at-risk”. I believe that we have an opportunity now to open up conversations around how this investment is being used equitably and with the highest levels of accountability. While I applaud these investments, there are a few more investments and crucial elements that should be considered if we are looking to improve equity, transparency, and accountability.
It is my hope that the State Board of Education will push the Mayor and DC Council for the following:
- Maintain the proposed 5.9% increase to the UPSFF so all schools have the resources needed to support students.
- Fully raise the at-risk weight to at least .37 to provide greater support to students designated as ‘at risk’—those who qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are experiencing homelessness, are in the District’s foster care program or are one year or more older than expected for their grade in high school.
- Increase the public charter facilities allowance to 3.1% in FY2023 to reflect the average growth in the cost of constructing school buildings to ensure every student has a safe learning environment.
- Publish a new adequacy study every five years. Looking at the new budget, it begs the question “How were these weights determined?” and “Are the weights given to Special Education, ELL and at-risk populations enough?”. An adequacy study should be completed at least every five years so we can better understand what an adequate based amount should be and the accompanying weights for students so schools are funded appropriately. The last adequacy study was completed in 2014.
- Provide greater transparency of the spending of all federal investments on public education by publishing an online roadmap for students, families, and school communities.
- Create incentives that meaningfully attract, support, and retain Black and Brown educators.
- Provide free and easy training and support so that all teachers can be trained in structured literacy. Only 30% of DC students are proficient in reading by fourth grade, according to 2019 NAEP reading scores..
- Fully fund the Department of Behavioral Health’s School-Based Behavioral Health Program (SBBH) so that every school has at least one mental health clinician. This means providing $300,000 for a cost study of the SBBH program to determine what it truly costs to implement the program now and in the future; investing $2.4 million to stabilize community-based organization grant funding each year, and supporting effective implementation of SBBH by adequately funding the Community of Practice, building a workforce pipeline, and expanding information-sharing and family engagement efforts.
Thank you all for your leadership during this important budget oversight process. DFER DC will continue to organize across the city to ensure our public education continues to be strong and that community voices are at the center of these recommendations. Thank you for allowing me to testify today.