Will Closing Schools Help DC Public Schools?

In this month’s Hill Rag, Soumya Bhat of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, asks, “Will Closing DCPS Schools Make the System Stronger?” With the assistance of budget expert Mary Levy, DCFPI determines that the answer is: No one knows. And yet DC citizens have been told to expect a final set of closing announcements this week.

Bhat and Levy discuss their research on this week’s Education Town Hall, Thursday, 1/10/13, at 11:00 a.m. (Tune in to 1480 AM or http://www.WeActRadio.com.) DCPS, the DC Council and the executive have been offered opportunities to respond. You can join the conversation here and on Thursday morning via call-in line: 202-889-9797.

In her article, Bhat poses a number of essential questions regarding the proposed closure of 20 schools within the DC Public School system:

  • Will Closing Schools Save Money?
  • Will Closing Schools Cost Money?
  • What Steps Are Being Taken To Show System-Wide Vision?
  • Will Closing Schools Lead To Greater Quality?
  • Are Small Schools Cost Inefficient?

Regarding small-school inefficiency, Bhat writes:

One of the main arguments in the Chancellor’s proposal for school closure and consolidation is that the under-enrolled schools or small schools are inefficient and require additional funding from the school system to operate. Yet an analysis of general education spending per pupil shows that small schools are not spending much more on a per pupil basis than large schools of the same school type. At the elementary level, for example, the typical general education budget for smaller schools is $8,472 per pupil, compared with $8,149 per pupil in the larger schools. (See Figure 1 below.)

It is worth noting that the Hill Rag was asking versions of these same questions five years ago when 23 closings were proposed. E.g.:

  • Is all of this about $14 million?
  • Where’s the Benefit?
  • Where’s the Vision?

Perhaps, if these questions had been considered more carefully then, DCPS would not be proposing to close another 20 schools with no budget or plan to show how these closings will make the system stronger. Tune in Thursday at 11 a.m., http://www.WeActRadio.com, to learn more.

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