Increasing Education Funding In D.C. Is Essential

Increasing Education Funding In D.C. Is Essential


More than half of the students at Perry Street Prep are identified as at-risk or have a disability, and we are singularly focused on closing the reading and math proficiency gap for these students. We’ve invested in a model and resources that are accelerating this progress, and it is working. Last year, Perry Street Prep was named a Bold Improvement School by EmpowerK12 because we are on track to close the achievement gap between at-risk students and their peers in five years. Without the kind of bold improvements that we invest in, EmpowerK12 estimates that it would take 34 years for students who are identified as at-risk to attain the same proficiency as their peers. This is unacceptable, especially when we know what needs to be done to improve outcomes for students.
Small-group instruction, connecting more students with mental health counselors and other intensive evidence-based interventions change the trajectory for students. Our teachers, staff and students are dedicated to continued improvement. Experienced teachers bring focus and joy to our school community because they know this work matters.
When the novel coronavirus happened, we, like every school across the city, had to shift our model to a virtual environment. Our teachers and students have retooled the way we work and learn. This has included an unanticipated investment of $73,000 in technology for students, including hot spots and devices so that they are able to connect with teachers and peers. And while most of our students have had high levels of engagement, we anticipate that they will need even greater support next school year to ensure that they are meeting grade-level benchmarks and are supported socially and emotionally to continue to close the achievement gap.
Despite the challenging economic conditions, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has found a way forward to continue her commitment to students and increase funding. Her leadership is essential as the financial need at schools has only increased.
Schools need additional funds for the increasing cost of compensating teachers and providing benefits such as health insurance. Health-care costs, insurance and wages are rising, and schools must keep up if we want to retain top talent. Our teachers are how students succeed, and we must meet the increasing cost of investing in them. We are committed to annual step increases ranging from 3 percent to 5 percent and will not let teachers shoulder the burden of this current health-care crisis.
Additionally, to support the growing student learning loss and provide in-person and virtual learning in the coming school year, we will need to hire even more staff, including aides and clinicians. The people in these specific roles sit shoulder-to-shoulder with students and help them work individually through lessons and challenges. They make an enormous difference for individual students and entire classroom environments serving a diversity of learners.
We need to continue to invest in technology and student access to the Internet so that we are prepared for this unknown future. It is unclear when school buildings will reopen and when social-distancing measures will be relaxed. We need to improve and invest in our distance-learning capabilities so that any future disruption is minimal and seamless. For example, on top of a need for additional personal devices and home hot spots, we’d like to install interactive whiteboards with video and recording capabilities in all of our classrooms so that the full instructional experience can be live-streamed. A year ago, this may have seemed like a “nice to have.” Today, it is essential.
Our schools need increased funding, and we need the D.C. Council to commit early. We need to be able to plan, hire and accelerate our work for the next school year. Committing to a funding level early in the budget process will eliminate one of the many uncertainties that we are managing during this pandemic.
We teach our students pride, perseverance, respect, integrity, dependability and excellence — the tools they need to succeed. Now, the D.C. Council must give our schools the tools they need to serve their students because every child has the right and ability to succeed.

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