D.C. School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey last night introduced an $810 million budget proposal for fiscal 2007, but postponed a more detailed presentation of spending until February, when he expects to complete a comprehensive plan outlining new education programs.
The school board is required to submit the budget to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) on Dec. 21, but Janey is seeking to delay the process to incorporate new programs coming out of his master education plan. Janey is exploring whether some suggestions made last month at public meetings for the plan -- including expanded pre-kindergarten, health care and other community services, and more art and music classes -- can be funded in the upcoming budget.
"If we were to present the budget on December 21 . . . it would be without the benefit of what might come from the master education plan," Janey told the school board last night.
By delaying the budget, he said, the school system can avoid having to go back to city officials later to ask for more money to fund the new programs. "We're not intending to object to the D.C. Code; rather, we want to have a mutual understanding that we will submit at a later date," Janey said.
Williams supports Janey's reasoning for the delay, said Vince Morris, a spokesman for the mayor. Janey's efforts are in line with Williams's desire "to constantly tweak the budget to make it more responsive to what the people want," Morris said.
The proposed budget is, for now, based on an $810 million allotment from the city for fiscal 2007. City officials arrived at the amount by calculating a 3 percent inflationary increase into its seven-year-old school funding formula, which long has been criticized for failing to keep up with the true costs of education and pay increases for teachers.
Janey and officials from his budget team said they are supporting a new proposal by the State Education Office, a city agency that oversees the funding formula for the mayor, to increase the basic per-pupil allocation from $7,534 to $8,002. Changing the formula, they said, would increase spending by 5 percent and add $29.3 million to the proposed budget.
The State Education Office proposal, which has been forwarded to the mayor and D.C. Council, "would include more money for athletics, vocational education and include better funding for high schools," Mary Levy, director of the Public Education Reform Project for the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, said in an interview.
Levy, who was part of the group that devised the proposed funding changes, added that the additional money also could be used to finance collective bargaining, which has traditionally come from special allocations from the council.
Nicole K. Conley, the school system's director of resource allocation and management, outlined other proposals aimed at financing the new programs under the master education plan and a much-needed increase in maintenance spending.
The school system has about 6 million square feet of unused space, experts have said. Conley said that closing and consolidating schools would allow the system to increase maintenance spending from $1.76 per square foot to the industry standard of $2.30 per square foot.
Moreover, she added, by leasing the excess space for at least $10 per square foot, the system would be able to raise $20 million. That money, she said, "could be directed to fixing up the building . . . or for expansion of pre-K and health services."