Teachers Rally for Equal Education Funding in Wards 7, 8

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Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) Local 6 President Elizabeth Davis speaks at a conference in March 2018. Photo: E. O'Gorek/CCN

“Fund our schools, fund our future.”

Hundreds of teachers, parents and community members rallied outside the John A. Wilson building on Thursday, April 25, to demand that the DC Council amend the proposed FY 2020 District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) budget to fully fund District schools. Twenty schools will experience cuts to their budget in Fiscal Year 2020. 17 are in Wards 7 and 8, where budgets will be reduced by about $10 million.

The rally came a day after DCPS Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee defended the budget before DC Council.

In an interview conducted earlier this month, Ferebee said that DCPS continues to prioritize students in budgeting. Noting the the overall budget has increased by 2.2% per pupil, he pointed out that costs are expected to increase by more than 4%. Ferebee said that a lare part of associated costs are personnel, and also pointed to investments such as the commitment to technology included in the budget.

Asked why so many schools in Wards 7 and 8 were facing budget cuts, Ferebee said, “the primary driver is enrollment [although] there are other driving factors,” noting the move away from the extended year model meant the loss of funds used to support the program at schools.

Ferebee said that DCPS will focus on accelerating student achievement so that more families will choose their neighborhood schools, leading to increased enrollment and school budgets.

Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) President Elizabeth Davis seemed to disagree. At the rally, Davis said that the proposed budget for DCPS was a disaster. “For far too long, all of our schools have been short-changed with respect to our city’s wealth, particularly those schools in Ward 7 and 8, where I taught for over two decades.”

“Every elected official says children are important, but that often is not reflected in their spending priorities,” Davis said, adding that years of disinvestment in the schools have hurt children and educators, leading to overcrowded classrooms and reduced personnel such as nurses and paraprofessionals.

Speaking at the rally, Ward 8 Representative and Vice President of the State Board of Education Markus Batchelor enumerated the cuts to schools, noting the percentage of students at risk in each school.

“Now, what we’ve heard our Mayor say, today and in the presentation of her budget, is that her administration is making ‘historic investments in public education,'” Batchelor said.

“Well, she’s right,” he continued. “They are historically low, they are historically inequitable, and they are historically inadequate. And now we’re here to say, enough is enough.”

WTU has started a petition to present to DC Council in support of increased funding to Ward 7 and 8 schools. Find it online.