WASHINGTON – Last night Mayor Vincent C. Gray heard views from a wide range of citizens concerned about schools in all wards of the city at his first public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2012 budget for D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) and D.C. Public Charter Schools.
“We’re asking you to help us think creatively about how to practice good fiscal stewardship while also living up to the equally important goal of providing our children the first-rate education they deserve,” said Mayor Gray, who was present for most of the 3 ½-hour-long hearing. “I thank the witnesses for their commitment to our kids and our schools.”
The hearing, held at Eastern High School, was the first that the Mayor has held in accordance with D.C. Official Code §38-917. Specifically, the Mayor heard testimony and received exhibits regarding:
• The current and prospective educational needs of the District’s publicly-funded schools, including DCPS and D.C. Public Charter Schools, educational programs that can address these needs, and support systems needed for safety and efficiency;
• The relative levels of support provided in recent years and sought in the current budget requests for DCPS, charter schools and other agencies of the District government that support youth;
• “The programs and levels of funding supported by the findings of relevant professional studies and commissions”; (this portion of the relevant law indicates that the hearings will be open to experts – such as policymakers and think tanks – who wish to discuss data that suggests best practices and recommended funding strategies); and,
• The levels of funding for public school systems in surrounding jurisdictions that have reputations for providing high quality education to their students.
The testimony ranged from multiple expressions of thanks to the Mayor for his advocacy for early-childhood-education to pleas for more equity in per-pupil allocations across the city’s traditional public schools and between D.C. Public Schools and public charter schools.
“As a taxpayer, I don’t feel it’s fair that my child should not be afforded the same funding that any DCPS student would receive simply because I chose a school that is more conducive to what I want for my daughter in the way of a solid education,” said Anise Walker, a Ward 8 resident and mother of a second-grade student at Friendship Public Charter School’s Woodridge Campus.
But other citizens argued that some differences in funding between types of schools are necessary. “The operation and management of such a specialty school requires more funds and resources than the average comprehensive high school,” said Cloteal Bennett, parent of a student at Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School.
And DCPS parent and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3E member Matthew Frumin congratulated Mayor Gray on his nomination of Kaya Henderson as the permanent DCPS Chancellor. “She brings both great skill and continuity, and right now we need both,” he said.
“I was very encouraged to hear the public -- parents, students, teachers, and community leaders -- speak about funding for public schools,” said State Superintendent for Education Hosanna Mahaley, who also listened to testimony at the hearing along with Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright. “Schools belong to the community; therefore, community voice is vital. The common theme was equity and the Gray Administration is committed to delivering on the community's expectation of fairness and equity.”
Deputy Mayor Wright thanked the witnesses for their dedication to the District’s students. “We greatly appreciate the public input provided to the administration during last night's education budget hearing,” he said. “This information will be incredibly helpful to us as we work to finalize the budget in the coming weeks and to ensure that the additional $76 million allocated to public education (as a result of the increased budget projections for FY12) is maximized.”
Written copies of the testimony will be made available on DC.gov as soon as they are entered into the public record.
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