Local: Education

Mayor Vincent Gray proposes 2 percent more in school funds

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D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced Thursday he wants to give the District's public schools a 2 percent funding increase next fiscal year.

The hike, from $9,124 to $9,306 per student, would match this year's 2 percent increase to the formula that provides the basis for funding DC Public Schools and public charter schools.

"This funding will help undergird our efforts to continue improving our public schools and preparing our residents to compete in the emerging economy," Gray said.

Source: DC Public Charter School Board

The cost of a student
Funding per-student by grade in 2012-2013
Base per-student funding $9,124
Preschool $12,226
Prekindergarten $11,861
Kindergarten $11,861
Grades 1-5 $9,124
Grades 6-8 $9,398
Grades 9-12 $10,584
Alternative $10,675
Special ed schools $10,675

DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson and DC Public Charter School Board Executive Director Scott Pearson both praised the additional funds as evidence of support for improving public education.

Though the per-pupil funding level starts at $9,124 this year, schools receive money above or below the base amount depending on which grade a student is in and whether the student has special needs. For example, a kindergarten student costs $11,861, while a high school student costs $10,584. A special education student can cost up to $28,284 if the school system enrolls the student in a private school.

Charter schools receive additional funds for facilities.

All told, the District spends more per student than any state in the country, with more than $18,600 spent per student on average after each of these add-on costs is factored in, according to census

data released last summer.

Representatives of Gray's office and the office of Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Leonard could not say how much the funding increase is expected to cost the District overall. Last year's 2 percent increase was initially budgeted at $86 million.

For the Friendship Public Charter Schools -- the District's largest charter school with six campuses -- the increase will mean roughly $728,000, said Donald Hense, chairman of the school's board.

"For us, it would go toward trying to increase faculty salaries," he said. "That is one of the big things -- a problem that charter schools face -- that is, trying to attract the good teachers and keep the good teachers."

At E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, which serves roughly 1,000 students, the increase would mean about $185,000, said Richard Pohlman, the school's chief of operations and policy. Though the additional funds are small in the scale of the school's roughly $24 million budget, they could pay for two additional teachers.

"It's great to know we can have extra staff where we need it most," he said.

DCPS is developing its budget for fiscal 2014, which starts Oct. 1,

and does not know how the additional funds will be allocated, said spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz.

But according to DCPS budget expert Mary Levy, the increased funds will not have much effect on schools' bottom lines, since 2 percent roughly keeps up with inflation. The school system is also renegotiating teachers' contracts, which probably will include a pay increase.

"It's going to be tough for the local schools," Levy said.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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