The Washington Post

DCPS budget: IMPACT’s impact

There’s plenty for DCPS stakeholders to dislike in the newly released school-based budget allocations proposed for 2012-13. While they reflect a two-percent increase in the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula, they will still mean larger class sizes--as in, fewer teachers--at the middle and high school levels, along with cuts in positions such as special education coordinator.

One of the drivers of this unpleasant news is the projected exhaustion of the private foundation money that has underwritten IMPACT bonuses for “highly effective” teachers under the terms of the 2010 collective bargaining agreement. After the current school year, the annual cost of the bonuses--about $7.2 million for the first two years of the program, according DCPS--will be borne by the individual schools.

For FY 2013, those bonus obligations will be loaded into the average cost of a classroom teacher, which will rise from $90,681 to $95,574.

DCPS was clear in 2010 that this reckoning was coming. The $64 million pledged by the Broad, Arnold, Robertson and Walton foundations was a three-year ride set to end in the fall of 2012. What was largely unexpected was to see these costs passed down to the school level.

At the time the contract was approved, then-Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and other officials said that savings and efficiencies achieved elsewhere in the school system--such as reductions in private special education tuition and transportation --could be used to help sustain the contract. But we’ve since learned that at least some of those savings have gone elsewhere, including the Department of Disabilities--to offset the loss of a federal grant--and economic development in Ward 7 and on the Southwest waterfront.

Where the rest of the $64 million has gone is not clear. I’ve asked for clarification from DCPS. A District study at the time of the contract’s approval estimated that without continued private help, the annual cost of supporting the 2010 contract was about $30 million.

Look for another contentious budget season.

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