Thursday, April 11, 2013

What's Inside the DCPS Budget?

Since we did our budget overview last week, it only makes sense this week to start to go a little deeper. With that in mind, DCAYA is proud to present some ideas and points about the DCPS budget proposal. The DCPS hearing will be next Wednesday April 17th.

We said this last week, but we’ll say it again: the DCPSbudget can be a confusing thing and this year is no exception. There are a lot of questions to be answered given the convoluted proposed budgeting for many programs in FY’14.  A prime example of this is the reduction of $268,000 from last year’s already severely reduced budget for the Office of Out of School Time Programming being countered by a $2,680,000 increase to the “Extended Day” line item. Certainly, DCAYA is on board with the idea of extending the amount of time that students spend engaged and learning. However, as we have written about before, extendedday models can vary widely and do not all achieve the same intended results. It’s also important to note that previously schools were open to community partners during after-school hours with janitorial and security services because these things were centrally coordinated by the Office of Out of School Time Programming. This same office became responsible for vetting community partners and most importantly for placing full-time after-school coordinators in each school to work with the service providers, principals, teachers, and parents to improve coordination and service delivery. In the last two years, this office took the focus on coordination and quality a step further, initiating work with community partners, DCPS central office, principals and teachers to align what students learned during the school day (newly defined common core standards) with the academic focus and objectives of after school programming. As this office has been largely defunded it its very unclear where these functions will land within DCPS or if they will be maintained at all.

Another somewhat baffling number in the DCPS budget is the Proving What’s Possible line item which only comes in at $733,000, given the sheer size of this program that number seems impressively low and PWP does not show up elsewhere in the DCPS budget (although it is likely part of the Extended Day or Technology line items).

Summer school is set to receive a very small bump this year, which is discouraging given all the research that points to summerlearning’s ability to close the achievement gap. The Summer School line item is certainly a place that could use some spirited advocacy!

Inducing further confusion is the “Instructional Programs” section  of the budget which essentially zeros out “Alternative Education” whereas the “Vocational Education” line item is set to experience a $6,000,000 bump which about evens out to Alt. Ed cut. Is this change just a re-purposing of funds? We hope so.

In terms of places that could all use some serious infusions of cash: Evening Credit Recovery is set to get about $375,000 in new funds, but middle and high schools could do a lot more with larger budgets. We know many of our students could utilize opportunities to regain credits and get back on track, so we need to support this.

The general Student Support Services is supposed to take a $286,000 cut along with a cut to School Social and Psychological Services of $92,000. This on its face is bad news but again these cuts are more than balanced out by School Health Services budget item which is set to receive an increase of $1,353,000.Youth Engagement will experience a cut of $733,000. Parent Resource Centers will experience a cut of $1,492,000 and Student Attendance will be cut $514,000. The Family and Community Engagement budget is set to experience an increase of $1,230,000. A lot of these cuts and bumps are likely internal repurposing of funds, and especially considering the focus on truancy prevention and student engagement this is likely. However, what advocates need to look at for is that these funds a re-purposing and that the functions formerly carried out are continuing to happen.

We know that the Committee on Education and the larger Committee of the Whole have an intense interest in solving the truancy issue within the District’s schools and especially at DCPS so as a community of advocates we need to look at things through the school engagement lens. While the DCPS budget may be complicated and may just be moving pots of money from one line to another, we still need to ensure that the programs that have proven their effectiveness or show great promise of doing so remain intact. With that we encourage all youth providers that have worked with DCPS to testify at next week's hearing.

 For more information on DCAYA's policy priorities and recommendations about out-of-school time and expanded learning please visit us online at or contact Susan Ruether or Maggie Riden.

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