Committee of the Whole:
Performance Oversight Hearing on District Education Agencies
March 9, 2021
Education Reform Now DC
Good morning Chairman Mendelson, Councilmembers, and Council staff. My name is Jessica Giles. I am a Ward 7 resident and the Interim Director of Education Reform Now DC (ERN DC). ERN DC is a non-profit organization that fights to ensure our public education system in Washington, DC, justly and equitably serves all students. I am pleased to provide testimony at this performance oversight hearing of DC education agencies.
For a year, our families in DC have been grappling with COVID-related health challenges, deaths, job loss, social isolation, and daily disruptions. Black, Brown, Immigrant, and low-income families have borne the worst of those impacts. Our school leaders and educators have performed miracles to ensure learning continues under difficult scenarios. Despite great effort, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the academic school year significantly. Many of our schools remain shuttered or under-enrolled. Students continue to learn virtually, which reduces quality time spent with their friends, educators, and school staff, burdens family, and impacts learning. As a consequence, many of our students’ academic progress, as well as physical and mental well-being, have declined
A recent poll of parents who are DC voters commissioned by Education Reform Now DC underscores the need for District leaders to meet our students and families where they are immediately and fully address the academic impact, emotional toll, and outright trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mayor and the DC Council must ensure a just and equitable recovery. They can do so in the following ways:
- Prioritize the health and safety of all of our students, educators, and families. I was pleased to learn that all teachers and staff who work for school and child care facilities are eligible for the vaccine. Continue to improve the vaccine appointment registration process. Prioritize residents in select zip codes where vaccination rates are lowest, like in Wards 7 and 8. Establish school buildings as safe, public vaccination sites. Partner with trusted community leaders to increase support for vaccines.
- Reconnect with all our students and families, and build trust. Engaging students furthest from opportunity and building trust in returning to buildings will be critical. We must do whatever it takes to prepare for safe, in-person learning this fall.
- Invest boldly in education. Increase the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula to 4%, the At-risk weight to .37, and the English Language Learner weight to .61 to ensure our students, educators, and schools have the resources and supports they need to have a strong academic year.
- Advance solutions that work. Effectively implement a large-scale tutoring corps for students who have fallen behind during the pandemic. Ensure strong, consistent access to high-quality and affordable behavioral health care services by expanding the school-based mental health program to all remaining traditional and public charter schools. Additionally, restore funding for community-based behavioral health services. And expand our teacher diversity pipeline by providing Black and Brown DC public school students a free accelerated path into the teaching profession in DC – all tuition-free.
Thank you for allowing me to testify today. I welcome any questions the Committee of the Whole may have.