- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2001

The D.C. Board of Education wants taxpayers to finance schools to the tune of nearly $716 million beginning Oct. 1. There are no new choices for parents, and no significant or big-ticket policy changes. Board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz says the money will be enough to finance a "regular school system." Sounds like the status quo, doesn't it?
The Fiscal Year 2002 spending plan proposes more of the same on various fronts, including more money to give teachers another raise, more money for preschool programs, and more money for teacher development. There is additional money to keep schools clean, more money for textbooks, and more money for more bilingual and vocational programs, and technology. There is also more money for a new high-tech school.
As for reforms, however, the board has yet to let the public know what, if anything, is in store. Seems the number of dollar signs, not student performance, is more important than changing the system and therein lies the rub with Cafritz & Co. Like their predecessors, the new board has bought into the myth that spending more money without changing the "system" will somehow churn out brighter students.
The board knows better. The board knows that in 1996, when the District reportedly had 80,000 students, the city's per-pupil expenditures were about $7,600. Today, there are 11,000 fewer students in D.C. Public Schools but the per-pupil expenditures, based on a $716 million, would be $10,377.
Parents are concerned about more than the mere size of the 2002 budget. They also are concerned the board cloaked itself in secrecy to decide what shall be funded, and hid again behind closed doors to calculate the costs. And now that the media have shed considerable light on the board's request, the board expects the public and sundry stakeholders to line up behind the board.
Parents are indeed lining up but not to support the board. Parents are lined up with their Local School Restructuring Teams, comprised of parents, teachers and community leaders at each of the city's schools, which each spring draw up funding and policy plans for their individual schools. That the board has already designed a budget essentially means it intends to ignore the funding and policy choices of the local teams. So much for school-based management.
Parents are lined up at various magnet and charter schools, too and behind President Bush and others who offer their children not more money for a "regular school system," but more educational opportunities for their children.

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