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Chancellor's FY 2017 Budget Oversight Hearing Testimony

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Chancellor's FY 2017 Budget Oversight Hearing Testimony

FY 2017 Budget Oversight Hearing
Testimony of
Kaya Henderson
Chancellor, DC Public Schools


The Honorable David Grosso
Committee on Education
Council of the District of Columbia

April 21, 2016
Council Chambers Room 412
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC

Good morning, Chairman Grosso and members of the Education Committee. I’m excited to have the chance to talk with you today because I am proud of the budget that is before you. This budget builds on our successes, provides more services to our neediest students, and keeps DCPS on a path of continued growth.

I want to give you a brief overview of our plans for the upcoming school year this morning, but before I do that, I want to thank Mayor Bowser for her remarkable investment in education over her first two budgets. For FY 2017, DCPS saw a 4% increase in local funds. Taken with the Mayor’s FY 2016 investment, DCPS has seen almost a 7% increase in local funds since 2015. These investments ensure that we can support our students as both enrollment and costs increase.

These increases allow DCPS to continue to improve the services we provide all of our students. In just the past five years, we have increased funding that goes directly to our schools by 22% to $610 million. We have also increased our teaching workforce by 18% over the same period, while solidifying DCPS’ position as the district with the highest starting salary and quickest path to a high salary for teachers. We have expanded opportunities to students from elementary school through high school by offering art, music, and PE to all students and by expanding AP course offerings at all high schools. Because of our sustained political support, increases in enrollment, and strong financial backing, DCPS really is the envy of surrounding school districts.

Just as important as the Mayor’s investment in our operating budget is the extraordinary increase she provided to our capital funding. Across the District, our students have had the opportunity to enjoy beautiful, new facilities. Brookland Middle School, Roosevelt High School, and Mann Elementary School are just a few examples of our newest facilities. By identifying $220 million in new capital funding, Mayor Bowser’s budget ensures that even more students have the opportunity to attend school in a great building.

The Mayor has made unprecedented investments in education, and yet, like you, I have heard from the public that there is still unmet need. I am sensitive to the concerns raised by the Capital Hill Montessori and Murch communities. I understand the attachment that some schools feel to Fillmore. I am sympathetic to schools that are reluctant to change their approach to professional development.

As the Chancellor of the whole district, I want all of our schools to succeed. I want every school to have the best facility. I want every student to have great opportunities. At the same time, I also know that some schools and some communities have more ability to speak up than others. I invite all communities to advocate for their schools, but I ask them to also understand that we also must listen carefully to the schools with the softest voices.

Thanks to our Mayor, we are doing more than ever before for our students, and we also know that we can never do enough for all of our children.

Our investments for the upcoming school year reflect my desire to support students and schools with the greatest need, even when they are not the loudest advocates.

After making, and sustaining, investments in elementary, middle, and high schools in prior years, we turned our attention in the 2016-17 school year to our alternative schools. We still have far too many students who don’t graduate on time and leave high school with few prospects for higher education or a career. By investing in programs to help over-age, under-credited students in our high schools while expanding opportunities in our alternative schools, we will ensure that DC Public Schools can serve all our students well.

Similarly, we know that students in our lowest performing schools need additional support to close the gap with their peers. We know that having the best teachers, challenging lessons, and more time are all key elements to success. That is why, for the upcoming school year, we are extending the school year by 20 days at 10 elementary and middle schools. Building on the pilot extended year program at Raymond Education Campus this year, these schools will increase the time students have to excel in core subjects and to experience enrichment opportunities.

At the same time, schools across the district will participate in LEAP (LEarning together to Advance our Practice) a new approach to helping teachers improve instruction. Through this program, we will help teachers do what all great professionals do – seek help from experts, spend time reviewing their practice, and work with colleagues to gain valuable insights. While none of these ideas are new, I know of no other district that is applying them thoughtfully to the practice of teaching.

Finally, I am very excited that we are opening two new schools for the upcoming school year. Four years ago when I spoke to you about school consolidation, I told you that I expected our district to be accordion-like, expanding and contracting to meet our changing population. By next school year, we will have opened six new schools in two years. The accordion is expanding, and it is music to my ears.

In August of 2016 we will welcome our first class of young men to the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School. This marks the first time that DCPS has opened a completely new high school in decades. I am thrilled at the demand we have seen for the school and am excited for Principal Williams to welcome his first class.

We will also reopen MacFarland Middle School as a dual-language program. This new school will provide students from our many dual-language elementary schools with a chance to continue their studies as they progress toward the global studies program at the new Roosevelt High School.

This is a truly remarkable time for DCPS and our budget reflects that. We are enjoying tremendous investments, expanding opportunities for all students, and growing as a school district.

I am pleased to have you as partners in this work, Chairman Grosso and members of the committee, and I look forward to answering your questions.