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Testimony: Oversight Roundtable on Public Education Priorities 2012

July 13, 2012

Executive director Judith Sandalow testified before the DC Council at a joint roundtable on educational priorities for the Council. She focused on two areas within DC’s public education system where there is room for substantial improvement: special education and systemic transparency. Read a summary below or review Sandalow’s full testimony as submitted to the Council.

DC Public Schools (DCPS) has long had a shortage in capacity to serve special education students, and students with intense needs are often enrolled in private schools in Virginia or Maryland where appropriate programs are available. With the budget pressures of the last few years, the District has moved to bring many of the students back in to local schools, “schools that we are, frankly, very concerned will not be able to meet their needs,” as Sandalow said in her testimony. “We share the goal of building a District-wide education system that can serve these students,” Sandalow continued, “but the investments must happen on the front end, before we are bringing children into schools that are ill-equipped to meet their varying, and often severe, needs.”

Transparency has also been an ongoing concern with DC’s education system. There may be great work happening behind the scenes, but the lack of communication leaves parents, advocates and possibly DCPS staff themselves without information about what programs and services are available for students. This issue comes up across the board with DCPS, and Sandalow highlighted examples in program capacity, budget planning, classroom observation, and discipline.