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City education leaders look ahead to the future of investing in DC schools

Education Forward DC
Education Forward DC

After years of continued growing investments in DC schools, the District of Columbia could be facing a more challenging fiscal picture at a time when DC students need greater support than ever.

Education Forward DC hosted a webinar discussion about these challenges in late June as part of its Better Than Before series. The series has explored various topics aimed at building an exceptional school system through DC’s COVID recovery.

The budget enacted for next year saw an increase in investment in the education sector. But, according to Yesim Sayin, Executive Director of the DC Policy Center, several factors could pressure future education funding in DC. City leaders must figure out how to replace one-time federal funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Act, tackle enrollment growth challenges, and fund competing priorities in the face of declining city revenue from commercial property as downtown recovers.

View DC Policy Center’s presentation here.

Webinar participants then heard from a panel of city education leaders: Chairman of the DC Council Phil Mendelson, Superintendent of Education Christina Grant, and Washington Latin Public Charter School Head of School Peter Anderson, who provided their assessment of fiscal realities and what is needed to make the best investment decisions and support students.

“It’s a concerning picture; I’m not as pessimistic about it,” said Phil Mendelson, chairman of the DC Council,  who characterized DC’s revenue estimates by the city’s Chief Financial Officer as often conservative allowing them to plan appropriately. However, he acknowledged that decisions must be made as one-time funding from ESSER end.

Washington Latin received a lot of ESSER funding, according to Mr. Anderson, that was used to support students and their families throughout the pandemic, whether it was for technology to keep students connected to school or emergency assistance to help families meet their basic needs. Social-emotional support and tutoring were heavy investment areas and will continue to be a high priority in the next school year, he said.

“We’ve been really laser-focused on how we are measuring the effectiveness of all of our programs,” said Dr. Grant, which can inform future policy decisions. She offered the investment in high-impact tutoring as an example. “We will be able to target and say it is this high-impact tutoring model that has had this most effective impact on this student population over time.”

Panelists further discussed student and teacher wellbeing, school leader retention, attendance, school-based mental health and climate, and the Council’s education agenda in the coming months. You can watch the full discussion above or here.

Read more from the Better Than Before series

Education Forward DC
Education Forward DC

Every DC student deserves to thrive.