DCPS Budget Addresses Concerns With Tech, Transparency

First DCPS Budget Under Acting Chancellor Ferebee

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Acting DCPS Chancellor Dr. Ferebee speaks with students. Image: Courtesy DCPS

On Thursday, Feb. 21, DC Public Schools (DCPS) released a budget for Fiscal Year 2020. The budget includes funds for technology, early childhood education and wraparound social services for students. It also incorporates a school-based budgeting process, allowing principals to engage with the community to construct a budget.

The budget process addresses concerns heard repeatedly from DCPS stakeholders at this year’s student budget hearingbudget engagement community forums, and public budget hearing.

“I am proud to release budget investments that reflect what I have heard from the DCPS community – increased access to technology, investments in closing the opportunity gap, expanded early childhood education and robust college and career readiness programming,” said Acting DCPS Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee.

Technology, Pre-Kindergarten Additions

DCPS will make an initial investment of $4.6 million in technology for Fiscal Year 2020 for grades 3 to 12. The investment is intended to provide a 1:1 device ration in grades 3, 6 and 9 and a 3:1 device ratio for all students in School Year 2019-2020. DCPS said it will continue to engage with stakeholders to develop a plan to acquire and upkeep technology in schools.

Nine new pre-kindergarten classrooms will be added next school year, including at Miner Elementary School as well as Bunker Hill Elementary School, Ketcham Elementary School, LaSalle-Backus Education Campus, Takoma Education Campus, Truesdell Education Campus, West Education Campus, Wheatley Education Campus, and Whittier Education Campus.

Two new college and career programs will open next year as well. Application high school Bard Early College will open in Ward 7, allowing students to earn an associate’s degree and credit from Bard College. The Early College Academy at Coolidge High School will open in partnership with Trinity University.

Dr. Lewis Ferebee has said that engagement is critical to building trust in the DCPS community. Image: DCPS

Extended Year Discontinued

Not included in the budget are the extended-year programs. The programs were intended to provide students with additional learning time, with the goal of eliminating summer learning loss. DCPS said that data indicated the program was not yielding significant academic gains, and cited staff comments about burnout and parental concern about different student calendars within a single family.

“As I have engaged with the DCPS community, it has been clear to me that our stakeholders not only want to celebrate our successes, but also understand our challenges,” said Acting DCPS Chancellor Ferebee. “DCPS launched extended-year schools as a way to boost student learning, and we did not see the results that we expected. We are reinvesting these resources in other areas to better support our students and will continue to find bold ways to promote equity and close the opportunity gap.”

The program has been replaced by a Connected Schools initiative, designed to integrate social services and family engagement with academics, using the school as a neighborhood hub. Certain schools will provide a pipeline of services, including job training, family wellness supports, housing, childcare and financial assistance referrals by partnering with District agencies.

The Connected Schools initiative is also intended to implement trauma-informed practices at school to help students stay engaged or re-engaged in the classroom. Each Connected School will hire a full-time manager to serve as part of the Connected School administrative team.

School Budget Transparencies

School leaders have autonomy to construct their budget based on their school needs. Having received their budget allocation, the next step is to engage with the community and the Local School Advisory Team (LSAT) to formulate a budget and submit it for approval by council.

With the goal of greater transparency, DCPS has created a Family and Community Guide to the DC Public Schools Budget to help families follow the overall budget development process. School communities can access a snapshot of their school’s Comprehensive Support Plans (CSP). CSPs are the strategic plans designed to drive continuous improvement at each school. School security funding is now a visible part of each school’s FY20 budget.

DCPS said that a final snapshot of each school budget will be published, showing both the total funding that the school received and how those funds were ultimately budgeted, so that school communities can gain a better understanding of how each school is using their resources.

The budget could be a clue to the direction in which the Acting Chancellor will lead the school system. A council vote to confirm Ferebee has not yet been scheduled. His confirmation will be automatic if a vote is not held prior to April 9.

To learn more about the DCPS budget, visit the DCPS Website. For more updates from DCPS, follow @DCPublicSchools on Twitter and Facebook.