PLTW classes lose valuable supplies following funding cut

Sarah Morgan

The Project Lead The Way (PLTW) biomedical and engineering programs at Wilson lost funding for many supplies for the first advisory of this school year. DCPS decided last week that leftover funds from last year will be used to buy materials for the remainder of the school year. PLTW staff and students were frustrated by the initial funding cut as it meant they would have to halt or cancel many planned activities, including labs and building projects.

At the beginning of this year, the new Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) Director Chad Maclin reinterpreted the budget allocation of the Carl Perkins Fund. The budget of the Carl Perkins Fund, which bankrolls many PLTW supplies, was revised to only fund equipment and materials that can be used permanently throughout the year, rather than purchasing consumable supplies, which can typically only be used a few times.

After the PLTW community lobbied both OSSE and DCPS to reverse the policy and reinstitute consumable funding, DCPS Career and Technical Education Office is allowing all engineering and biomed classes to order $5,000 in consumables. The amount is significantly below the typical budget for PLTW consumables. Notebooks alone reportedly cost $2,000, additional engineering and biomed materials will likely exceed that. DCPS is using leftover money from last year, so classes may again not have consumables next year.

As a result of the funding cut, at the beginning of the year, teachers weren’t able to get materials they need, such as food to cook with or notebooks to write in. “The culinary school [at Dunbar] can’t get food. [Danielle] Krafft’s class can’t get hearts to dissect because they’re consumable. I can’t get notebooks, I can’t get the stuff I need for digital electronics,” said engineering teacher Angela Benjamin, before DCPS had decided to invest funds.

The timeline for when the materials will arrive is uncertain. “Date of delivery depends on when the purchase order is submitted. They’ve got to cut a check, right, they’ve got to send it through their channels.” Benjamin added, “[Ms. Krafft] got her order last week, but I didn’t get an order.”

PLTW teachers found that the new equipment they did receive from DCPS first advisory was not helpful. Krafft expressed that, while she received brand new laptops, “the laptops were like, a pot/pan you would pop popcorn in, but having no kernels… The whole learning process is not complete unless the consumables are present to be used.” Benjamin added. “[We received] equipment that we don’t necessarily need. We got two brand-new 3D printers. My students and I appreciate the new printers. But we need consumables to teach our classes on a daily basis.

Biomed students felt that the lack of consumables robbed them of valuable class experiences. “It’s important to get the hands-on experience,” said senior Gabby Anifantis. “The students are the ones who get affected in the long run because you can’t get the same learning experience from watching someone do a lab online, versus you actually doing it with your hands.”

Engineering students at Wilson were equally unhappy with the initial funding cut. Sophomore Henry Byrne said that the impact was negative because it “restricts the amount of interesting things we do in class.” Other engineering students noted that consumables were extremely important to the program, and were upset due to to the lack of notebooks.

PLTW teachers are grateful for DCPS’ efforts. “I’m glad and I hope it’s enough,” said Benjamin