- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray proposed $76 million in new public school spending for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, but future budget cuts are still in the picture.

And UDC President Allen Sessoms, who is scheduled Tuesday to explain the university’s expenditures, including his travel costs, said his school needs a budget boost, too.

Asserting that enrollment growth justifies the new expenditures, the mayor said traditional D.C. public schools will receive $51.2 million and public charter schools will get $25.7 million.

Audited enrollment numbers show that charter school enrollment spiked by 1,695 students, while traditional schools have 912 new students this school year. A breakdown also shows that much of the growth was triggered by higher enrollment numbers in universal pre-K programs in both sectors, but traditional schools continued to reflect declines in first through 12th grades.

The mayor’s announcement was made at 7-year-old D.C. Prep at Edgewood, a charter for middle schoolers where 100 percent of them scored proficient or advanced in math on the standardized DC-CAS exam, and 94 percent achieved the same levels in reading.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray wants $76 million in new public school spending for the next fiscal year, but more budget cuts are possible. (Associated Press)
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray wants $76 million in new public school ... more >

The new funds “will enable charter school leaders to retain and attract the highest-quality teachers with competitive salaries and benefits, and to enhance their program offerings,” said Josephine Baker, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board.

Both the mayor and Chancellor Kaya Henderson said the new funds will help deter deep cuts of about $100 million that would have affected school jobs, summer school and after-school programs. But the chancellor also said “the modest increase” won’t ward off future cuts, and that she will be engaging parents, teachers and other stakeholders before handing her proposal to the mayor.

As for the University of the District of Columbia, the school needs additional funds to sustain its new community college, which opened in 2010. But UDC received no additional D.C. or federal appropriation for the community college, which cost about $10 million.

President Obama has requested about $2.5 million for the community college in his spending plan, which Congress has yet to pass.

Mr. Sessoms‘ budget request, which is being considered by the mayor, could give UDC an additional $12.5 million. The money would be used to help cover the subsidies provided to students at UDC, where per-pupil subsidies are as low as $3,000 and as high as $16,000.

“No student pays more than 40 percent of tuition,” Mr. Sessoms said.

Mr. Sessoms made his comments at a press conference Monday where he explained to students and the media why he had traveled to England and Egypt.

“For 14 years we have had an obligation to the UDC degree program in Egypt,” he said. “It’s an accredited program and it’s self-sustaining.”

Many of the students at the press conference had participated in a protest earlier in the day, where they accused the school of misusing funds and called for Mr. Sessoms‘ resignation.

Asked whether he was considering resigning, Mr. Sessoms said, “They didn’t ask me.”