Local: Education

D.C. summer school expanded in passage of $241m supplemental budget

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Local,DC,Education,Alan Blinder,Marion Barry,Vincent Gray,David Catania,Muriel Bowser

The D.C. Council backed a $241 million supplemental budget on Tuesday, opening up thousands of additional seats in summer school and funneling millions of dollars into housing initiatives.

Lawmakers gave swift approval to the proposal from Mayor Vincent Gray, who submitted the supplemental package in late March, though they sought to put their own imprint on the measure during a rancorous session muddled with handwritten amendments and procedural fights.

At-large Councilman David Catania, who chairs the committee with oversight of education issues, secured unanimous backing for a $4 million infusion to enlarge the city's summer school program after officials said it would be by invitation this year because of budget constraints.

"We're going to have to do a much better job going forward of budgeting for summer school," said Catania. "We have our work cut out for us as we look at this budget."

Catania said that the city's initial budget would have allowed 2,700 students to enroll in summer classes, far short of the 10,000 that officials say could benefit.

Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry said he was "appalled" that the city had not budgeted for full summer offerings, and he said the extra spending would offer long-term benefits to the District.

"It's a good solution in the interim," said Barry, who saw lawmakers later defeat his own plan for $50 million in spending. "Either you pay now or you pay later."

To pay for the expansion, lawmakers temporarily trimmed the budget of the Housing Production Trust Fund, which still received an immediate $48 million boost with Tuesday's vote.

That money will be reimbursed later using excess revenues tied to parking as Gray seeks to make good on his vow to spend $100 million on affordable housing this year.

Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser warned her colleagues against developing a habit of raiding housing accounts.

"We'll all have to resist the temptation," Bowser said. "There are many competing and worthwhile issues, but if we are to attack the affordable housing problem, we all have to commit to it."

Lawmakers also supported spending $495,000 on a truancy study; about $10 million to forgive a debt the University of the District of Columbia owed the city; and $10.5 million for adult and youth programs within the D.C. Department of Employment Services.

Although Gray and lawmakers spent millions, they did not use the entirety of the windfall that gave the District extra cash, leaving about $96 million available for next year.

Tuesday's supplemental budget was essentially a warm-up for a major vote later this month on a $10 billion spending plan for 2014.

Lawmakers will hold a first vote on that budget on May 22, though they will have to stage a second vote for it to pass.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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