Mar 2, 2023 - News

What's inside D.C.'s proposed school budgets

DCPS Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee. Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Dozens of D.C. public schools are slated to lose funding next year under DCPS’ proposed budget.

Why it matters: Parents, teachers, the teacher’s union and members of the D.C. Council say cuts mean students and teachers lose resources amid a period of declining test scores.

State of play: A little over half of schools would see their budgets shrink by up to 5% — a relatively small figure but one that would hit the smallest schools the hardest.

For many of the schools, the declining budgets are due to a drop in enrollment, per an analysis by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. That's because the District has long funded individual schools based on student population numbers, and DCPS doles out additional funds for students considered at-risk.

  • Schools facing a projected decline in enrollment include Alice Deal in Tenleytown, Ron Brown in Deanwood, Turner near Fort Stanton, Savoy in Anacostia, and Hart in Congress Heights.

What they're saying: At a D.C. Council hearing last Friday, chair Phil Mendelson lambasted the District’s proposal, asking why schools were being cut when DCPS overall has received a 5.05% budget increase.

  • Teachers and parents also testified that budget cuts could mean the loss of staff members, like library and English language staff, and the loss of programs aimed at helping at-risk students.

The Washington Teachers' Union called on DCPS to use funds from its central office to avoid budget cuts, as well as increase budgets based on the union's new contracts.

The other side: DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebree pushed back, telling the council that the proposed budget offers adequate funding for at-risk and special needs students, as well as students in need of language services.

  • He said some funding decreases might be tied to fewer students needing such services at a particular school.

Zoom in: Schools seeing the largest impact of budget cuts are across Northeast and Southeast, particularly among D.C.'s Black and low-income communities, says Qubilah Huddleston, an analyst with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.

  • Compounding the budget crunch for many of these schools, including Anacostia, Fort Stanton, and Sousa in Fort Dupont, is that they will lose one-time recovery funds from the mayor’s office in coming years.

Other schools that would lose funding include Hearst in Tenleytown, Hyde-Addison in Georgetown, and Takoma Elementary School.

What we're watching: The proposed cuts are part of the mayor's preliminary budget, and schools have the opportunity to request changes.

  • Funding disputes for schools have been perennial issues over the years. Parents and lawmakers have long fought to reverse cuts to schools after the mayor's budget gets sent to the D.C. Council, which has the final say.

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