DC Council, Committee on Health

Budget Oversight Hearing

Rabiatu E Barrie, PhD

Civic Leader

Education Reform Now DC

Chairperson Christina Henderson and Committee on Health Members,

I am Dr. Rabiatu Barrie, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, and a civic leader for Education Reform Now DC. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. In this testimony, I will present actionable steps to enhance mental health services in DC Public Schools, supporting the overall well-being and success of our students.

Our primary asks are:

  1. Ensure stable compensation per clinician in FY 2024
  2. Ask the Committee of the Whole to hold a public hearing on the B25-0055, the “Pathways to Behavioral Health Degrees Act of 2023.”

We propose the following solution:

Increase funding for school-based behavioral health services to $5.7 million for FY 2024 to ensure stable compensation per clinician

The FY 2023 budget allotted $80,000 per clinician per school to place a community-based organization (CBO) clinician in each of DC’s 253 public schools. Due to staffing cost increases, DBH increased funds for CBOs by over 40%, to $99,000 per clinician per school in December 2022. However, CBOs are still facing challenges in recruiting and retaining clinicians due to a shortage of behavioral health care professionals in the District. We applaud DBH’s efforts and urge them to invest at least $5.7 million in the SBBH program to ensure stable compensation for partnering CBOs in fiscal year (FY) 2024.

We also recommend the following:

  1. Ask the Committee of the Whole to hold a public hearing on the B25-0055, the “Pathways to Behavioral Health Degrees Act of 2023.”

Community members and clinicians have been discussing this bill and believe that it is time to take action. Holding a hearing would be a step in the right direction to address the District’s long-term goals. Holding a public hearing will increase awareness of the proposed legislation among the general public and stakeholders, allow for a comprehensive discussion of these provisions, ensuring they are well-designed and effective in attracting and retaining students in this field, and help to ensure that mental health professionals better reflect the communities they serve.

By implementing these measures, the DC Council will send a strong message about its dedication to promoting mental and behavioral health in schools.

In conclusion, investing in school-based mental health services is vital for the well-being and success of our students. The proposed solution, supported by the DC Council’s commitment, can make a lasting positive impact on the lives of countless children and adolescents in the District of Columbia.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 14, 2023) — A new poll released today by Education Reform Now D.C. (ERN D.C.) found overwhelming support (71%) for D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) and public charter schools to receive equal funding to support their students.

Nearly 8 of 10 voters (79%) believe that the Mayor and D.C. Council should include a raise in compensation for DCPS and public charter school educators in this year’s budget. The same percentage of voters (79%) believe that the D.C. Council should maintain the 3.1% charter facilities allowance increase so public charter schools can continue to make rent or mortgage payments, complete major renovations or modernizations, and pay for utilities, repairs, and maintenance.

“These results underscore that D.C. voters want all our students to have high-quality public education options, educators who are fairly compensated, and schools that are modernized–whether students attend a traditional public school or public charter,” said Jessica Giles, executive director of ERN D.C. “In the fiscal year 2024 budget, we urge the Mayor and D.C. Council to listen to voters and prioritize an equitable education for all students, which includes equal funding for DCPS and public charter schools.”

SurveyUSA interviewed 501 District of Columbia registered voters who voted in the November 2022 general election or the November 2020 general election. This research was conducted between Feb. 20, 2023 and Feb. 26, 2023. View the poll here.

About Education Reform Now D.C.

Education Reform Now D.C. (ERN D.C.) is a non-partisan, nonprofit think tank and advocacy organization that promotes increased resources and innovative reforms in Pre-K-16 public education, particularly for students of color and students from low-income families in Washington, D.C.

Join our community in asking for fair and competitive compensation for all D.C. public school educators by signing this petition.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 10, 2023) – Education Reform Now (ERN) Released the following statement in response to President Biden’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget:

“The Biden Administration’s proposed budget largely reflects the Administration’s commitment to expanding educational access and equity in K-12 and postsecondary education.

We applaud the proposed budget for increased investment in foundational education programs including an 11% increase for Title I grants to support high-poverty schools, 17% increase to Special Education State Grant programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and a 34% increase for Title III grants to support English Language Acquisition and Language Enhancement for English learners.

We are especially pleased that the Biden budget prioritizes education innovation, and research & development (R&D). Notably, the budget provides an 8% increase for the Institute for Education Sciences to support basic education research and a 43% increase for Education Innovation and Research Grants to scale innovation and evidence-based programs. 

Encouragingly, the budget also proposed doubling funding for the Augustus Hawkins Centers for Excellence, which support comprehensive teacher preparation programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and other minority-serving institutions.

While we appreciate that President Biden has remained consistent in his proposed level funding of $440 million for the Federal Charter Schools program, the amount is insufficient to support current needs for school facilities, start-ups, and replication and expansion of high performers. We urge Congress to improve upon this investment so that students across the country continue to have access to high quality public charter schools. 

On the higher education side, we are also pleased that the proposed increased investment in Postsecondary Student Success Grants, which will support the implementation and expansion evidence-based practices that improve postsecondary retention and completion, as well as new investments in a Holistic Student Supports program and a new Postsecondary Advancement and Success Technical Assistance Center. At the same time, $164 million remains too small an investment for these grants to have a widespread impact on raising completion rates and closing degree gaps.

Additionally, while we are encouraged to see a $820 boost to the Pell Grant, compared to the astronomical cost of college today, increasing Pell Grants alone remains insufficient to make four-year college affordable and successful for many Americans. It is critical that Congress not just provide financial support to students from low-income households, but also to the institutions that enroll large numbers of Pell recipients, so that they can create the systems and supports needed to boost completion rates.

Bold change necessitates bold investments. We look forward to working with Congress during the appropriations process to build upon these priorities.”


February 13, 2023

Mayor Muriel Bowser
The Office of the Mayor
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mayor Bowser:

Thank you for providing historic investments in public education last year. I am writing to urge you to invest in equitable resources for all schools; ensure all educators receive high-quality preparation and support; provide affordable and high-quality postsecondary education opportunities; and invest in safe, stable, and positive learning environments for all students. Our FY 2024 budget priorities are the following:





Thank you for all you do for our students, educators, and families! We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure we have a just, equitable, and high-quality public education system for all students.

In service,
Jessica Giles, Executive Director
Education Reform Now D.C.

By Steven Isaacson

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R-IL) is holding hostage billions of dollars in state education funding. If the Democratic state legislature does not approve Rauner’s demands on tax freezes, collective bargaining, worker compensation, and inequitable school spending, he will veto the 2017 budget wholesale.

Gov. Rauner addresses IL state legislature
Gov. Rauner addresses IL state legislature

The governor is, according to Chicago Mayor Raum Emanuel, reenacting the story of Moby Dick, where Rauner is dead-set on tackling the whale, in this case State House Speaker Michael Madigan, instead of caring for the lives of the ship’s passengers, Illinois citizens. Meanwhile, Rauner and state Republicans are dismissing the mayor’s call for desperate financial help for Chicago Public Schools as a bailout.

The state, by the way, has been operating without a budget since last July.

If this tactic reminds you of the brinksmanship strategy employed by Ted Cruz, the Tea Party, and Congressional Republicans with threatening to default on the national debt if Democrats didn’t repeal Obamacare, well, it should. Cruz and Congressional Republicans threatened the bond market. Rauner is using the future of Illinois children, among other needy populations, as his political pawn.

How despicable.

In education policy, much research has been prepared on the idea that schools must be accountable to their students. In K-12, schools must track students’ academic outcomes annually and focus attention and interventions on low-performing subgroups of students and schools. In higher ed., similar discussions are mounting on the need for colleges to be accountable for student success both during their academic careers and after graduation.

But this budget impasse makes one thing very clear: So too must lawmakers hold up their side of the equation.

Democrats in the legislature argue that the budget process should not be about promoting policy reforms, but about distributing sufficient and equitable funding for social services, including the state’s K-12 and higher education systems.

As the Illinois Constitution says:

“The state shall provide for an efficient system of high quality public educational institutions and services. The state has the primary responsibility for financing public education.”

So much for respect of the rule of law.

Currently, Illinois is ranked dead last out of all states for education spending from the budget – only a little over a quarter of dollars spent on education comes from the state, with most coming from local property taxes. The state, in fact, has been defunding education by a total of $1.4 billion dollars since 2009!

While politicians at the state capitol argue, the President of Chicago State University, Thomas Calhoun, has planned massive layoffs and a shortened school year.

School districts across the state are worried they won’t open on time.

At a time when progress was being made on postsecondary education enrollment, students are losing hope in their state schools, forcing them to look out-of-state for college, if at all. K-12 schools will be forced to run on reserve funds and programming as well as social services could be ceased.

How can we approach education policy by promising students funding in exchange for hard work and good grades, if we can’t hold up our side of the bargain?

In the short-term, partisan quarreling has resulted in a last-minute stop-gap measure signed by Gov. Rauner that funneled $600 million to help struggling higher education institutions. But this short-term measure only lasts until the end of the summer, keeping state colleges and universities on edge for future prospects.

More than a dozen superintendents sent a letter to the governor’s office, expressing their frustration with the political games played in Springfield taking pertinence over the lives of schoolchildren. This may fall upon deaf ears, however, as the legislative session has ended for the summer. But lawmakers have “promised” to continue working after the session ends and that they’ll consider a short-term solution in the coming weeks.

If not though, the fight continues in September when lawmakers gather again.

Lawmakers must remove themselves from their comfortable political corners, stop jockeying for position, and carry out their constitutional obligation to fund Illinois’ future.

It will take several years for the effects of this battle to wear off and it will no doubt affect disproportionally low-income families – especially in Chicago — who will be forced to bear the brunt of any negative financial ramifications.

As the Chicago Tribune’s Eric Zorn notes, “It will take courage on the part of legislators to get Chicago off that list of most disadvantaged schools and offer a better future to all kids in Illinois growing up in property-poor districts.”

As advocates for education reform, it is our job to look out for these children’s lives, and to provide a voice for those without.

Education is at the foundation of making those lives better.

Illinois state lawmakers should do their jobs, provide funding for education, and advance school reform and improvement. Do not hold innocent students’ lives hostage.