Journalists Discuss DC’s “Churn” Problem and Mayoral Control

by Jordan Pandy, Education Town Hall intern

Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for the Washington Times, and Michael Alison Chandler, education reporter for the Washington Post, join the Education Town Hall on July 9 to discuss education issues in DC and beyond.

Churn: Budgets and Stability in DC Schools

The first half of the discussion was focused on a recent article in the Washington Post written by Chandler, “Thousands move in and out of schools during the year, creating disruptions,” which details the current problem of high levels of students transferring mid-year. The problem with students entering schools late in the year causes disruptions to students, teachers, and everyone involved. Chandler describes the situation as a “churn” and the problem lies mainly in the public school systems open-door policy.

Deborah Simmons brought up an interesting question pertaining to the financial aspect of the student transfers: does the money follow the student to their new school? The short answer is no. According to Chandler, what the schools do is estimate the money needed by the “projected enrollment.” In other words, the schools make an educated guess as to how many students may be transferring in and out of their schools. “In reality, they [number of students] might fluctuate…because there is so much churn,” said Chandler.

Modernization, Food, and Mayoral Control

The second half of the broadcast touched on a few different topics including modernization of D.C. public schools, the new food vendor contract, and also the evaluation report of mayoral control. The link connecting these issues is money, or rather, the misuse of funds. Currently in the District, a large number of old, decrepit school buildings are being transformed into modern-day works of art. Although the remodeling of these schools is well past due, some believe this does not solve any overlying problems. “The problem is: are the kids any smarter than when they were in the old building? The answer is NO,” Simmons stated. She would go on to mention that the money spent on these new schools is “astronomical,” but they still lack improvement academically.

The second issue slightly touched upon was the new food vendor contract for D.C. schools. According to Simmons, the schools are paying children to eat “two to three times a day,” but a lot of the food goes to waste. Simmons attributes the misspending of this money to the lack of attention paid to the students, “the kids aren’t eating the food. The kids don’t like the food. So the food and the money are being wasted.”

Lastly, the guests briefly discussed their frustrations with the recently released report evaluating mayoral control in Washington D.C. The report left more questions unanswered than expected. The report, taking over 5 years, was expected to give clear-cut answers to the current problems surrounding academic achievement in DCPS, but it just did not come together. “I feel like it didn’t answer a lot of questions for us,” said Chandler. Really the only thing the report found was that the achievement gap has widened since the installment of mayoral control.

SIMMONS_DEBORAH_CUTOUT_s200x281imrsMs. Chandler (right) wrote recently piece on student churn in DC public schools. Ms. Simmons (left) wrote recently about school choice and dollars in Baltimore public schools.

tracks 2 and 3 here —

Also on Thursday: Update from Jesse Turner, the Walking Man, at the halfway point on his “Justice not Just Tests” walk between Connecticut and DC. track 1 above

The Education Town Hall broadcasts from Historic Anacostia in Washington, DC, Thursdays
at 11:00 a.m. Eastern on We Act Radio.
Listen live via TuneIn.
Shows are archived for convenient listening shortly after broadcast.

The Education Town Hall BUS is a monthly program
organized by BadAss Teachers, United Opt Out, and SOS March.
The program regularly airs on the 4th Thursday of each month.

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