School’s Out – But DC’s Focus on Children Doesn’t Slow Down
Children and youth across the city may be in the full swing of summer vacation, but DC policymakers have been busy in the past month making news that could greatly affect education, health and well-being for DC children.
During the final week in June, the DC Council made its final vote on the FY14 budget, which included allocating an additional $50 million at the last moment – much of which went to programs for children. The council earmarked $11 million from the revised revenue forecast to increase access to infant and toddler child care by 200 slots and raise the reimbursement rate for child care service providers. Another $1.9 million will help expand school-based mental health programs. We had been concerned when Mayor Gray’s budget was first released that both of these vital programs had not been prioritized, so we’re glad to see DC make these investments – even if it is at the last moment. Other notable last-minute changes include funding for free public transit for students, upgrades to school technology, and recreation facility improvements. For more information on the end of DC’s “budget season,” read a detailed breakdown from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute of how the final dollars were spent.
In mid-June, DC Council Committee on Education Chairman David Catania introduced seven education bills, which included a wide range of proposed changes to the governance, funding, accountability structures, and enrollment procedures for DC schools. There are too many details for one blog post, so you can read our summary snapshot of the bills for more information and links to the text of each bill.
In the first two weeks of July, the Committee on Education kept busy with a marathon schedule of public hearings on these bills (plus a few more) before the Council adjourned for summer recess. DC Action submitted testimony on several of the bills – you can read our testimony on the Parent and Student Empowerment Act here and testimony on other bills here. If you missed the hearings, live recordings are available on the DC Council website.
There’s still time to comment on these bills! Councilmember Catania is spending the Council’s recess time holding community meetings in each of the city’s eight Wards to discuss “The Future of Public Education.” We encourage you to come out to a meeting and tell the Council what services and educational assets children in your neighborhood need. DC Action hopes that any changes to school budgeting procedures and accountability structures will improve schools’ ability to meet the diverse needs of children in different neighborhoods, particularly children living in poverty.