By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
At least 100 people chanted “Fund our schools,” sang songs, and protested the proposed budget for District of Columbia Public Schools this week. The “Fund Our Schools Rally,” held on April 24, was organized by the Washington Teachers’ Union, and claimed that the budget would slash millions of dollars across all eight wards, but particularly to Wards 7 and 8.
According to the union’s independent analysis, schools like Anacostia, Ballou and Excel Academy would lose $1.2 million, $1.3 million and $1.4 million in funding respectively.
“The proposed budget for D.C. Public Schools is a disaster,” said Elizabeth A. Davis, President of the Washington Teacher’s Union, during the rally. “And it has been for years. I’ve taught in Wards 7 and 8 for twenty years and I’ve watched the systematic process of starving schools, punishing them with a high stakes tests and literally setting them up for failure and we will not have it any longer.”
“Every elected official says children are important, but that is not often reflected in their spending priorities.”
The FY 2020 Budget highlights “Education” investments including $1.79 billion to education services to 95,820 D.C. students in traditional and charter public schools, including $77.9 million to address overcrowding and $6 million to address mental health services, according to the Mayor’s proposal.
Davis said that the cuts her organization is protesting do not necessarily show up “on paper” in the proposed budget. But independent budget analysts have sifted through the numbers to come up with outcomes resulting in what they believe are serious cuts in the budget.
The Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization posted Mary Levy’s public testimony from the March 29 D.C. Public Schools Budget oversight hearings. Levy, who is an education finance attorney, budget and policy analyst and parent stated:
“The initial allocations can only be described as inadequate, inequitable, un-transparent and arbitrary. Schools are affected very differently from each other, but cuts are disproportionately concentrated East of the River, and among at-risk, minority students, those most vulnerable to the ill effects of the destabilization caused by big budget cuts.”
Davis pointed out that the continuous cuts make is difficult for teachers to be effective.
“It is impossible to do the job that teachers are asked to do today,” Davis said. “It’s as if the bar is being constantly raised and the scaffolding is being kicked out from under them.”
However Paul Kihn, Deputy Mayor for Education refuted the narrative of massive cuts and maintained support for the budget.
“We remain very proud of the continuous large investments we make in education and the budget increases we fought hard to include,” Kihn said.
“While enrollment has gone up 1.9 percent, the overall school based budget is going up [by] 4.7 percent,” Kihn told the AFRO, adding that the increase excludes security.
Kihn said that there are 119 more adult employees in the 2020 proposed budget than there are this year.
Kihn did contend that, “We are aware that every school has a different story.”
Beyond just education Kihn said, “ we are investing in the community outside the school budget to get to the root issues. We’re investing a lot into housing, trauma care and early childhood investments, to make sure that students arrive ready for school.”
Orgaziners pushed for the budget to be returned and reworked.
“What I’m seeing is the collective power of teachers parents and communities taking control of their schools,” Davis said. “All of the movements that have taken place over the years has been because of collective action.”
“We can continue to go to the Wilson Building and testify and beg for them to do the right thing, but at some point we have to decide that the people are the power.”
To see the mayor’s full FY 2020 budget please go to: https://cfo.dc.gov/node/289642