Last evening public educations leaders gathered at the Wilson Building to listen to the preliminary findings of an Education Adequacy Study completed by the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education Abigail Smith. The analysis, 13 months in the making, was created by The Finance Project and Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates. For those of us gathered in the cramped quarters there was a real reason for optimism.
After the two presenters completed an exhaustive overview of the report, which took almost all of the allotted one and a half hours of meeting time to explain, they revealed that they are recommending adding legal, technology, nurses, mental health support, and procurement assistance, which DCPS currently receives at no charge, into the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula. There would be a separate allocation for maintenance and operating costs related to building upkeep, custodial services, and utilities that the authors say provides equal funding for the two education systems. In other words all revenue for DCPS and charters would go through the UPSFF except for crossing guards and Student Resource Officers.
There are a few worrisome aspects of the document. First, the suggestion is to leave the charter school facility allotment at $3,000 a pupil for now until a better system is created for reporting capital expenditures by this sector. Charters are suffering under this limitation in both the renting of space and the acquisition of permanent buildings. The facility problem is so fundamental and intractable as it relates to the success of these schools that I hope we can change the Deputy Mayor's view on this issue.
In addition, DCPS would continue to receive money for excess space that it currently holds in its inventory but is not now using. This $43 million a year is felt by FOCUS to be problematic since it comes outside of the UPSFF. Also, there was no mention of retirement plan funding for DCPS teachers, also outside of the UPSFF, which in fiscal year 2014 totals $30 million.
Finally, assurances were lacking that the recommendations of the Adequacy Study will make it into the Mayor's 2015 fiscal year budget. It is possible that some of the suggestions will be accepted and others ignored or rejected. Perhaps most importantly is the fact that the revised UPSFF represents an increase in spending of $135.7 million, $56.5 million for DCPS and $79.2 million for charters, not including the $43 million in additional building costs for the traditional schools, so the concern is where the Mr. Gray would obtain the necessary additional financial resources.
But this morning we need to give the Mayor credit. He ran on the promise of funding equity between charters and the traditional schools and here at last we have a solid proposal which makes highly significant progress in this regard. Now, let's see if it is actually implemented.