Jack Evans Report: D.C. School Closings
This week I want to put my views on the record regarding the recent proposal by DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson to close 20 DC Public Schools. In Ward 2, the proposal is to close Garrison Elementary School and Francis-Stevens.
In general terms, I have expressed support for the idea of finding efficiencies by closing under-enrolled schools. The problem, however, is that the savings projected from these closings never seem to materi- alize. No matter how many schools are closed, the DCPS annual budget of $2 billion keeps going up by 2% per year, maintaining the highest per pupil funding formula in the nation. In the past ten years, the number of public school students has been cut in half, but our budget has doubled! And yet, so many of our schools still have no librarians, music teachers or art teachers. I introduced a bill to mandate that each public school be provided with a full-time librarian, music teacher and art teacher, and I believe any savings from school consolidations should first be used for these purposes.
Now to the specifics of the Chancellor’s proposal. With regard to Garrison, I have let the Mayor and the Chancellor know that I am opposed to its closure and understand Councilmember Graham agrees, as a number of Ward 1 families also support Garrison. Garrison, with its lively and involved support system consisting of parents, a strong PTA, and community support from the LCCA and the ANC, should remain open. If consolidation is needed, students can come from Seaton to Garrison. Garrison is at nearly 70% capacity – higher than almost any other school set to close. Consolidation of Garrison and Seaton will result in children being in trailers – this is not a good option!
With respect to Francis-Stevens, I have let the Mayor and the Chancellor know that I am opposed to its closure also. While I support School Without Walls and think the concept of using space at Francis-Stevens is an interesting idea, I cannot support the idea of clos- ing Francis-Stevens as it exists today. When the execu- tive closed Stevens School, a commitment was made to the community regarding Francis-Stevens. If enroll- ment numbers are down, it more likely indicates prob- lems with the K-8 model rather than a lack of need or demand for educational resources in the neighborhood.
I have been pleased by the Chancellor’s tone in being open to feedback from the neighborhoods and would urge you to make your views known. In addi- tion to the Council hearings, the DCPS website lists several ways in which parents and the community can provide feedback. While there are four community meetings scheduled, I have to note that just one single meeting has been scheduled for parents from wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 together, on Dec. 5 at Brightwood, 1300 Nicholson Street NW. Please try to attend the meet- ing and share your views so that Ward 2 is not taken for granted. The DCPS website also provides a link to an online forum, as well as a promise of office hours that will be announced beginning Dec. 5. Please let me know your thoughts, as well, so that I can continue to advocate on your behalf.