February 7, 2023

Jessica Giles

Executive Director

Education Reform Now D.C.

PR25-0063: the “Compensation and Working Conditions Agreement 23 between the District of Columbia Public Schools and the Washington Teachers’ Union, 24 Local #6 of the American Federation of Teachers”

Chairman Mendelson, Chairwoman Bonds, and members and staff of the Committee of the Whole and Committee on Executive Administration and Labor, my name is Jessica Giles. I am a ward seven resident and the Executive Director of Education Reform Now D.C. (ERN DC). ERN DC is a non-profit organization fighting for a just and equitable public education system for all students in Washington, D.C.

I am submitting written testimony regarding the February 1st Committee of the Whole and Committee on Executive Administration and Labor joint public roundtable on PR25-0063 to urge support for providing funding for public charter schools that is equivalent to the DC Public Schools (DCPS) contract package with the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU).

Teachers are the backbone of a high-quality public-school education. Because they are the number one in-school influence on student academic achievement, we support policies that: allow the District to recruit, prepare, and retain highly effective educators, particularly educators of color, within their chosen fields; ensure fair evaluation (i.e., IMPACT); adopt culturally responsive standards and instructional materials; and support incentives for educators to teach in schools serving historically underserved students. We also believe all educators deserve fair and competitive compensation. 

Educators have worked incredibly hard to teach and support our students over the last three years, but it has been tough for those working in school buildings. Every time I check in with school leaders and teachers, they remind me of their daily challenges: how students are showing up further behind and demonstrating more severe behavioral issues. Everyone is rightfully concerned about principals, educators, and school staff recruitment and retention. This is not a DCPS issue or a public charter school issue. It’s a citywide problem, and we need citywide, innovative policy solutions and funds to address it. The Mayor and D.C. Council can start by providing equitable payments to public charter schools. 

In 2017, the last time the Mayor and the D.C. Council approved the WTU contract, equal funding was provided for both sectors to fulfill the District’s legal obligation.[1] Since then, however, significant deficits have been created between the sectors. For example, the FY2023 budget included $53.5M in funding to DCPS and public charter schools outside the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF). $38.7M of that funding went to DCPS but not to public charter schools. Our elected leaders must end this practice. They can start by providing public charter schools with a one-time payment equivalent to the back pay DCPS teachers will receive on a per-pupil basis and ensure that future salary increases are sent to all public schools through the UPSFF.

President Joe Biden recently stated: “Show your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” At the end of FY 2022, there was an $834 million budget surplus, with the District showing a “strong financial position.[2] The educators serving 46,000 public charter school students in Washington, D.C. deserve a raise in compensation, and I hope you will support them during the upcoming budget process. 

[1] September 25, 2017. The Hoya. “DC Council Votes on Raises for Public School Teachers” https://thehoya.com/d-c-council-vote-raises-public-school-teachers/

[2] February 2, 2024. Glen Lee Chief Financial Officer. “Public Briefing on the FY 2022 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR)” https://cfo.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ocfo/release_content/attachments/Glen%20Lee%20Testimony_FY%202022%20ACFR.pdf