Education Reform Now DC
2021 DC Council’s Committee of the Whole budget oversight hearing:
DC Education Agencies
Good morning Chairman Mendelson and the Committee of the Whole. My name is Jess Giles. I am a Ward 7 resident and the State Director of Education Reform Now DC (ERN DC). ERN DC is a non-profit organization that fights to ensure our public education system in the District justly and equitably serves all students. I am pleased to provide testimony on how we can ensure all our students have a just and equitable recovery this upcoming school year and beyond.
Mayor Bowser’s proposed FY2022 budget and fiscal plan provides many critical investments for students. These investments include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Increase to the foundational level of the per-student funding formula from 3.0% in FY2021 to 3.6% in FY2022.
- Increase to the At-risk weight from 0.226 in FY 2021 to 0.24 in FY2022, with an additional supplement of 0.06 for overage students.
- Increase to the English Language Learner (ELL) weight from 0.49 in FY2021 to 0.50 for ELL elementary students and 0.75 for middle and ELL high school students in FY2022.
- An extension of the public charter facilities allowance.
- High-impact tutoring, an evidence-based approach to accelerating student learning.
- Expansion of the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) to support 4,200 additional youth and provide earn-and-learn slots in summer 2022.
- Provides early Saturday morning programming at park and recreation facilities.
- School-based mental health services for DCPS and charter schools.
- An investment in dual enrollment and mentorship programming.
- An enrollment preference for public charter and DCPS students enrolled in a dual-language, language immersion, International Baccalaureate, or Montessori program who want to continue the same type of program at a higher school level.
All of these investments are vital, so we urge the DC Council to support them. We believe they can be improved in the following ways:
- Provide more significant support to students who are considered “at-risk”.
- New investments must be targeted to students who are considered “at-risk.” We know these are students who have experienced the most academic and social-emotional hardship this past year. We cannot reverse our widening opportunity gaps without being targeted and intentional. Additionally, the budget must reflect investments necessary to fully address vaccination access and hesitancy, specifically in Wards 7 and 8. We ask the DC Council to investigate this further and fund accordingly.
- We also urge the DC Council to raise the at-risk weight from 0.24 to 0.37 to move us closer to fully funding the need. We ask this every year, and every year we fall short.
- Additionally, we ask the DC Council to use American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) funding to provide LEAs who are using promising or proven practices with additional funding to support the learning and well-being of their students considered “at-risk.” This program could help teachers and administrators apply improvement science to implement research effectively, provide greater school-level autonomy, and require financial reporting to ensure dollars supplement, rather than supplant existing spending.
- Fully fund the expansion of school-based mental health (SBMH) to all remaining schools. We are grateful to the Mayor for allocating $5.8 million to the Department of Behavioral Health for school-based mental health services. However, there is still an $841,000 gap to cover the real costs of providing services to all DCPS and public charter schools. We urge the DC Council to fill the gap and provide an additional $1.5 million in one-time federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan to cover increased costs for current SBMH providers. Additionally, we believe there is still a need for $4 million to restore funding for Community Based Behavioral Health Services back to FY20 levels.
- Ensure Funding Equity. While the budget contains many important investments that we applaud, I am concerned about budget inequities between DCPS and public charter schools.
- Charter Facilities. We urge the DC Council to increase the facilities allowance to 3.1% to ensure our students in charter schools have safe, high-quality buildings to return to this upcoming school year. Currently, there is flat funding proposed even though costs continue to rise. For consideration, DCPS is receiving $1.57 billion over six years for school modernizations, whereas charter school LEAs who educate almost 50% of our students are only receiving $178,809,544.
- Stabilization funding. We also urge the DC Council to establish equity in stabilization funding for DCPS and public charter schools. Currently, there is stabilization funding for students attending DCPS schools but none for students attending charter schools. There’s even language proposed in the Budget Support Act that would amend the funding formula to create this inequity permanently.
Thank you for allowing me to testify about how DC can ensure all our students have a just and equitable recovery. I am available for any questions that you may have.
 At-risk students means a DCPS student or a public charter school student who is identified as one or more of the following: homeless, in the District’s foster care system, qualifies for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; or a high school student that is one year older, or more, than the expected age for the grade in which the student is enrolled.
 January 21, 2021. Education Reform Now DC. “ERN Testimony on High Dosage Tutoring.” Source: https://edreformnow.org/dc/ern-testimony-on-high-dosage-tutoring/
 Currently, the MBSYEP program can support up to 10,000 youth.
 December 2020. Empower K12. “COVID-19’s Impact on Student Achievement and Academic Growth in DC.”
 H.R.1319 – American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 became public law on March 11, 2021. Source: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1319/text
 February 12, 2021. Education Reform Now DC. “ERN DC Testimony on School-Based Mental Health Protection.” Source: https://edreformnow.org/dc/ern-dc-testimony-on-school-based-mental-health-protections/