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Report: Savings marginal after D.C. Public Schools closes schools

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Local,DC,Education,Rachel Baye

Closing 20 DC Public Schools will save the school system barely more money than it will cost to close them, according to a report released Tuesday by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, or DCFPI.

While closing the proposed schools could save DC Public Schools $10.4 million in the 2013-2014 school year, consolidating them could cost $10.2 million, significantly reducing the overall savings, the analysis by D.C. education finance analyst Mary Levy found.

When the District closed 23 schools in 2008 -- the last time the District shuttered a large group of schools -- the process cost the school system $39.5 million, roughly $30 million more than anticipated, according to a D.C. audit released in September.

Source: DC Fiscal Policy Institute

The price of education
Cost savings for 15 proposed school closings
Ward School Estimated savings
7 Ronald H. Brown Middle School $772,832
7 Davis Elementary School -$78,121
8 Ferebee-Hope Elementary School $615,165
2 Francis-Stevens Education Campus $1,563,610
2 Garrison Elementary School $256,100
8 Johnson Middle School $369,438
7 Kenilworth Elementary School $101,840
4 MacFarland Middle School $441,182
8 Malcolm X Elementary School $413,764
5 Marshall Elementary School $463,856
1 Shaw Middle School -$193,537
7 Smothers Elementary School $90,550
5 Spingarn High School $2,846,851
8 M.C. Terrell/McGogney Elementary School $537,284
7 Winston Education Campus $1,474,990

DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson proposed in November closing 20 schools at the end of the current school year to conserve resources, but she has not said how much money she expects to save with the plan. The final list of school closings is scheduled for release this week.

Henderson spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz did not return requests for comment.

"One of the main arguments in the DCPS proposal for school closure and consolidation is that the small schools are inefficient and require additional funding from the school system to operate," the DC Fiscal Policy Institute's report says. However, the difference in per-pupil costs at a small school compared with those at a large school turn out to be marginal.

For example, an elementary school with fewer than 350 students receives $8,472 per pupil, 4 percent more than the $8,149 allocated per student at larger elementary schools.

Soumya Bhat, an education finance and policy analyst at DCFPI, also estimated that, based on staffing policies and enrollment projections, roughly 162 staff members will not be necessary after the closings. The 20 schools currently employ 1,042 teachers and staff.

Nate Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers' Union, said it was likely that no teachers would be laid off as a result of the closures, especially once teachers retire at the end of the year and others lose their jobs after failing their Impact evaluations.

Levy's analysis does not take into account any continued savings from the staff cutbacks, nor does it factor in new revenue generated by selling or leasing the empty buildings.

Though Henderson's proposal suggests retaining up to 11 buildings for future school expansions and reopenings if enrollment picks up, no suggestions were made for the futures of five buildings.

"We may save something past year one," Bhat said, "but we don't think it will be that much, especially when DCPS has talked about reopening the schools in the next couple of years."

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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Rachel Baye

Staff Writer - Education
The Washington Examiner