Severe Wilson HS budget cut moves forward (2015)

May 7,  2015 Newsletter To get on my regular email list, please email me at

Today’s newsletter is heavy on the DC education budget!!! Now is the time to Contact Education Committee Chair David Grosso ( re: the Wilson budget cut! Also, two new education advocacy groups on the scene; how not to teach reading comprehension, reading comprehension; and School Events from Deal, Hardy, and Mann!

Severe 10% Wilson HS Budget Cut Moves Forward. Next Step is Up To City Council Education Chair David Grosso

As many of you know, DCPS’ proposed budget for the next school year singles Wilson High School out for a severe budget cut. The proposed cut of $350,000, combined with a projected enrollment increase of 176 students, will reduce per-student funding by 10%.

A terrific group of Wilson students–organized by PTA president Kim Bayliss–as well as Wilson’s LSAT chair Jeff Kovar and parent leaders from Murch and Shepherd, testified before the city council’s education committee (April 23), arguing forcefully for the funds to be restored. In response, Chairman Grosso agreed at the hearing that the Wilson budget cut needs to be addressed. He indicated his belief that DCPS Chancellor Henderson would, in fact, offer a solution when she testified in front of his committee the following week. I was optimistic when I left the hearing.

The response was disheartening. According to the Chancellor, no funding will be restored to Wilson. Instead, recognizing that the allocated funds are insufficient, DCPS will require that Wilson push out many of its out-of-bounds students, including by strictly enforcing a policy that dis-enrolls out-of bounds students with 10 absences. (Keep in mind: The way in which Wilson’s block scheduling policy interacts with DCPS’ scheduling policy means that students can be marked absent if they are just a little tardy—meaning in effect that students with one tardy a month can be kicked out.)

The Chancellor also testified that as the new school year approaches, if class size is a problem, DCPS will work with Wilson to find additional teachers at that time. But that just begs the question: We already know that the current allocation is inadequate to provide adequate staffing. Waiting until later just assures that the Wilson administration will be unable to plan properly and do the necessary hiring in a timely, responsible way.

Next week, the Council’s education committee will mark up the education budget. This is the time to reach out to Council Education Chair David Grosso  Or call at 202-724-8105. Please let him know that it is important to you that the Wilson budget get restored. He is an at-large Councilperson. You may have voted for him!!!

To see a collection of budget documents, go to the Wilson page of my website. I’ve posted letters to the Mayor and Chancellor from Councilwoman Cheh, Wilson parent leaders, and the Ward 3 –Wilson Feeder Education Network, as well as links to a web-based budget tool, a petition, and my testimony to the City Council.

Many schools are dropped from the modernization/renovation budget. Education Chairman Grosso seeks input on troubled process.

DC’s education spending includes an “operating” budget and a “capital” budget. Wilson is the target of the most devastating cut in a school operating budget. But many schools have been suddenly and without warning found cut from the capital budget. As a result, desperately needed modernizations and renovations at these schools have been further delayed, some of them for multiple years. As Chairman Grosso noted at the hearing, the way in which capital budget commitments have been made to schools, changed, and changed again year after year is not an appropriate or fair way to address the needs of schools.

Please click on this link to take the survey created by Chairman Grosso’s office and aid their effort to bring sanity to this system.

Great new tool for understanding the DCPS budget

Now you can see the facts for yourself! At the beginning of the budget debate, the “conventional wisdom” was that Wilson was losing so much money because DCPS was required to properly distribute a special allocation of funds for “at-risk” students made available by the city council. The suggestion was that somehow last year Wilson got more money than it should have to support education for its at-risk students and the proposed budget cut was just a righting of the ship.

This web-based budget tool gives the lie to that notion. Wilson got fewer dollars last year than it should have for its substantial at-risk population. Now that DCPS is being required by the City Council to properly distribute the at-risk funds, Wilson will receive more “at-risk” money than it did last year! Wilson’s very severe budget cut has nothing to do with the redirection of “at-risk” money. Wilson’s budget cut is due to a discretionary DCPS decision. With this tool, you can see where the money is going. You can look at the budgets of all schools across the city. You can also click on high schools to look at just the Wilson budget and other high schools.

Two new organizations to advocate for DC and Ward 3 schools

***Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities.

Newly founded to champion high-quality neighborhood schools in every DC neighborhood, this new group was founded by the ward-level education councils that exist in every DC ward and several city-wide education advocacy groups. Its first product is the terrific web-based budget tool, developed by Code for DC. As described above, which is providing DC residents the facts they need to understand, analyze, and critique the proposed DCPS budget.

In its prior, less formal incarnation, the group hosted a forum for mayoral candidates last fall and has called for greater budget transparency in school funding and better planning around school facilities. See here for C4DC’s 6 core principles. See here for its website.

***Ward 3 –Wilson Feeder Education Network

Launched by PTA and LSAT leaders from Ward 3 and Wilson feeder schools, this new group gives Ward 3 an organization that already has a counterpart in every other ward–a formal structure for sharing information and building relationships among ward schools and advocating for public school children in the ward and across the city. The group’s next meeting is Thursday May 14, 7PM, at Shepherd Park Library. You can follow the Network @W3EdNet and at

Reading Comprehension Requires Background Knowledge

Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham (my colleague on the board of the Core Knowledge Foundation) explains why a curriculum that focuses on “reading” while deemphasizing science, history, social studies and the arts actually hurts reading ability! He did a series of pieces for Washington/Post online. Here’s one of them.

School News

Heartbreak for Hardy  By a heartbreaking .2 seconds, Hardy’s incredible rocketry team lost its chance to be the first DCPS public school to get to the finals of the Team America Rocketry Challenge. The competition includes 689 teams, almost all high schools (while Hardy is a middle school), from around the country. Their .2 second loss was to Arlington’s famed science and tech magnet, Thomas Jefferson High School in Arlington. If you’re going to lose, that’s a pretty impressive team to lose to. Next year, Hardy!!

You might wonder, as I did: What does a rocketry team do to win a place in the national competition? According to Marcio Duffles, PTO president and team coach, “Design, build, and launch a rocket to a height of 800 feet, land within a window of 46 and 48 seconds and not break the “eggonaut” ????!!!!

Deal’s Spring Musical—Guys and Dolls

Three great shows: Thursday, May 7– 7PM/ Friday May 8—7PM/ Saturday May 9-2PM

Hardy’s “Night in Rio” Gala and Auction

May 15, 6:30-9:30pm. Hardy’s off and running with its first auction in six years! At the home of PTA president Marcio and Tracey Dufles-Andrade. 4770 Reservoir Rd. NW Additional parking available at the Lab School across fro the venue. To purchase tickets, Click here.

Horace Mann’s Summer Bash

June 8, 5-8pm. End the week with lots of family fun. Bring the kids–lots of games, lots of food, lots of fun!

Councilwoman Mary Cheh greets Wilson High School students testifying at City Council education committee hearing.
Wilson students address the DC city council's education committee.
Wilson students address the DC city council’s education committee.

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