Wards 7 and 8 schools lose $13.6 million in new budget

Amanda McHugh and Elie Salem

DCPS has drastically reduced the budgets of schools in Wards 7 and 8 due mainly to a significant decline in enrollment projections. Schools in that area make up just one third of DCPS schools, but face two-thirds of the school district’s total budget cuts.

While this year’s budget appeared to be $56 million larger than last, in actuality, a series of increases in costs left discretionary spending at $11 million less than previous years. Increases in the cost of positions, both due to raises and inflation, cost a total of $27 million, school security costs $21 million, enrollment changes cost $6 million, and changes in funding for new schools cost $14 million.

Out of a total of 38 schools in Wards 7 and 8, roughly 28 received cuts, while the remaining 10 made small gains. In total, the two Wards lost $13.6 million. Ballou and Anacostia High Schools lost a total of a half million since last year.

DCPS also decided to shift the costs of maintaining security from Central Office to schools, exacerbating the cost of the cuts. In Ward 8, Anacostia High School has to pay around $670,000 for security next year and Ballou High School has to pay around $800,000. In Ward 7, Woodson High School lost almost $400,000 in funding and has to also now pay $590,000 for security and Ron Brown High School has to pay over $360,000 for security.

Part of the reason for the budget cuts is that enrollment decreased in multiple Ward 7 and 8 schools. Enrollment at Anacostia High School and Ballou High School dropped 23 percent and 32 percent respectively, though other schools saw far smaller drops in enrollment.

Independent education analyst Mary Levy notes that the budget cuts did not closely follow enrollment numbers, however.

“Enrollment projections were a partial factor but what I found is that they were grossly disproportionate,” she said. “Excel Academy, in Ward 8, lost money that is the equivalent of 13.6 teachers, but even though there was a decline in projected enrollment of 150, the school should have lost only 7.9 teacher positions… Kelly Miller MS, which gained the equivalent of 1.1 teachers in real dollars, but with an enrollment gain of 124 students, should have gained the equivalent of 5.6 teachers,” Levy explained.

The DC Council, which doesn’t have direct control over the budget, is reviewing a resolution that would urge more equitable funding for Ward 8 schools.

Parent organizations have also been lobbying DCPS to pay security costs instead of shifting it to schools. “We sent a letter saying you should take the security costs back to in your budget, not in school budgets. And that applies across DCPS,” said Chair of the Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commission Jonathan McHugh. “In the long term we have some other thing’s we’re doing.”