It seemed from the get-go like an improbably tight schedule. The Public Education Finance Reform Commission (PEFRC), not even formed until late last month, had until Nov. 30 to deliver a report to the D.C. Council with recommendations on how to bring more equity and fairness to school funding.
But Deputy Mayor DeShawn Wright’s office now says that Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown has agreed to move the deadline back to Jan. 31. The extension will ease the time crunch and allow the city to come up with more money to hire outside consultants for the 13-member commission.
The question is whether the commission will finish in time for its recommendations to inform work on the FY 13 budget, which was the basic idea. City agencies are already at work on their submissions.
“Jan. 31 is really pushing it,” said Robert Cane, executive director of FOCUS, the charter school lobbying group that sought the creation of the commission to redress what it says are long-standing inequities in District funding. “In the past we’ve always operated on the assumption that if we were going to get anything meaningful into the mayor’s budget we had do it by late November.”
But Cane also said he’s been assured by Wright’s office that there will be plenty of time. Mayor Vincent C. Gray is required to submit his proposed budget to the council by the end of March.
The panel was authorized in 2010 as part of the FY 2011 budget, and scheduled for a June or July launch. But the mayoral election, transition and delays in the procurement process pushed matters late into the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Wright ended up splitting the consulting contract into two phases, one for FY11 and FY12.
Long story short, the only bidder on the 2012 phase was the same firm that has handled the FY 11 launch of the commission, Collaborative Communications Group. And their bid came in well north of what was set aside, which was less than $100,000. Wright has asked the budget office for more funding, and the request for proposals was put out for bid again last week. Bids are due Oct. 21