At the first legislative meeting in Council Period 23, Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6) will introduce the At-Risk School Funding Transparency Amendment Act of 2019, which would shift the spending decisions for at-risk funding from DC Public Schools’ Central Office to principals and school communities.
The bill also adds new reporting requirements for all public schools receiving at-risk funds so parents, the public, and the Council can better track them and gauge their effectiveness.
“At-risk funds should be an important tool for closing the District’s achievement gap and ensuring the students most in need have additional evidence-based supports to help them succeed. But I keep hearing from parents and teachers that the money doesn’t make it to the classroom. Instead, staff positions are cut, and students already on the edge are falling through the cracks,” said Councilmember Allen. “Adding insult to injury, schools are now subject to a five-star rating system that will exacerbate the challenges and raise the stakes for schools serving high numbers of at-risk students. The least we can do is ensure schools serving these children actually get the extra funding we promised them.”
At-risk funds were created in 2013 to ensure all public schools – both DCPS and Public Charter Schools -- serving students who needed more support academically or socially would receive additional resources on top of the standard per-pupil funding. But in 2015, the Council moved spending authority for those dollars in DC Public Schools to the Chancellor’s office, rather than principals, at DCPS’ request. Since then, parents and lawmakers alike have been frustrated in trying to track at-risk spending, ensure it is truly supplemental rather than covering core staffing needs, and to assess its effectiveness.
Councilmember Allen said, “Right now, we’re not doing enough to evaluate if that extra money is making a difference or even being used as intended. Increased transparency will help us make the right decisions and ensure it’s getting to the students who need it most.”