The fiscal year 2019 budget season is coming to an end. For the past three months, the District Council has held hearings and discussed how taxpayer money should be spent in the coming year. Council committees have heard from passionate residents on many issues, and that testimony weighs heavily on our budget considerations.
The nearly $14.5-billion budget will be the biggest in the District’s history, with a large portion of the money going to DC Public Schools. It’s crucial to keep in mind as we move closer to approving this enormous budget that the city and agencies need to do a better job of knowing exactly how our money is spent. When the District allocates money to DCPS — which has been hit hard by reports of multiple scandals in the past five months — it’s more important than ever to make sure it is used wisely and efficiently.
The scandals, I believe, have hurt the credibility of DCPS with the public. For instance, students’ attendance records had been altered to ensure that graduation rates remain high. In addition, there have been findings of residency fraud at some schools. Not that long ago, the Council had a very tough decision to make when asked to increase the budget for the Duke Ellington School for the Arts redevelopment project. And, in February, the DCPS chancellor was forced to resign for bypassing student transfer rules.
I trust the mayor and District officials will be diligent in their oversight to correct these problems.
It’s not all bad news, though. I still believe that DCPS has many great schools, where teachers provide a quality education for many of our children. The District has some of the best schools and teachers in the region. Last week, I attended the Ward 2 Education Network forum with Acting Chancellor Amanda Alexander. I was very impressed with her knowledge of Ward 2 schools, schools throughout the District and our successes and challenges. She has a solid plan to make changes and rebuild the trust in D.C. schools.
All District residents deserve a well-funded school system that works to educate and to prepare children for life after high school. Our fiscal year 2019 budget makes the point loud and clear that education is a top priority. My hope is that we can move past these road blocks and focus on educating our children.
Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.