DCPS has a reputation among its stakeholders for a lack of transparency in budget and financial matters. Here’s a little window onto why.
On April 11, Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced “Proving What’s Possible,” a new $10 million grant program designed to spur innovative ways of boosting student achievement. Officials are especially interested in funding schools that want to extend the academic day, leverage technology to improve learning, or upgrade staff.
All praiseworthy objectives. But what caught my eye was the $10 million. In a budget season when local and federal funds are in decline, and school librarians are an endangered species, how was this being financed?
On April 12, I e-mailed Henderson’s spokeswoman, Melissa Salmanowitz: “We need a much better understanding of where the $10 million is coming from,” I wrote.
Six days pass. On April 18, I get this response. The sources are:
· $2 million in reductions to the Office of Human Capital.
· $3M from the after school program.
· $5M from what Salmanowitz called “interventions which have not shown successful outcomes in schools.”
“DCPS made the deliberate choice to eliminate unsuccessful programs so that principals would have the chance to try new interventions with specific outcomes,” she wrote.
I responded: “This is a good start, but I need to know more specifically about the interventions that have been dropped and reductions to Jason’s [Human Capital chief Jason Kamras’]office.”
On April 20, in a previously scheduled meeting with Kamras, I asked for details about the cuts. He declined to comment and directed me back to Salmanowitz.
In an email on May 9 and a phone call on May 10, I reiterated my interest in a line item accounting of the $10 million. In fairness to Salmanowitz, I really don’t think she was hiding anything. She couldn’t find out.
So, on May 15, that’s where we are. I could file a Freedom of Information Act request. I have a file folder full of those. The turnaround time is anywhere from three to six months.
I’m hoping this post might compel them to release the detail I’ve been seeking for more than a month.