If the spending plan is approved by the D.C. Council, the city’s $8.5 billion local budget would include $1.92 billion for public schools in fiscal year 2021, an increase from $1.81 billion in the current fiscal year, officials said.
That amounts to about $11,310 in base spending for each of the nearly 100,000 students in the city’s traditional public and charter sectors. Students who have special-education needs or who are considered at-risk will receive an additional allotment that is similar to the current fiscal year.
The overall city budget, including federal funding, is $16.7 billion. Federal funding will bolster the city’s local education spending, which includes additional federal aid this fiscal year as part of Congress’s $2 trillion coronavirus relief package.
“This is a budget that reflects our community’s priorities,” Bowser said Monday. “While this is not the budget I expected to send to the council earlier this year, it is a budget I am proud of and the city can be proud of.”
The budget proposal arrives as the District’s economy has ground to a halt. The city is projected to lose nearly $800 million in revenue in fiscal year 2021 alone — plus another $700 million in revenue in this fiscal year. This marks the first budget in a decade in which local revenue has not increased and city officials are forced to scale back spending rather than increase it.
City officials said they will cover the shortfall for the upcoming budget with about $500 million in reserves and surpluses and $166 million in reductions to agency budgets, mostly through a spending freeze.
Public school system teachers — who currently have a lapsed union contract — would still receive salary step increases, largely based on how many years they have been working, but would not receive cost-of-living raises.
The mayor’s budget proposal also answers lingering questions about improving and building new campuses. Bowser allocated $58 million to open a new Foxhall elementary school to alleviate overcrowding in Ward 3. She plans to move the new Bard High School Early College to a permanent location in 2023 at the original Malcolm X Elementary — a shuttered campus in Southeast Washington — and allocate $80 million to the facility.
The closed Spingarn High School in Northeast Washington would be home to the D.C. Infrastructure Academy. Excel Academy Public School will remain permanently at its current location at the old Birney building in Southeast Washington, which the city owns but has been leasing to charters.
Bowser’s proposal would give charter school operators the option to lease the closed Wilkinson Elementary in Southeast Washington by 2024. Much of the spending in the capital budget is divided across multiple years.
The mayor’s budget allocates $1.5 million through federal funds for mental health services in schools and $6 million for student technology.
The education budget received immediate praise from leaders in both education sectors.
The head of the D.C. Public Charter School Board lauded the increase in education spending on social media. Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, said she is still examining the details of the budget but praised the investments in mental health and technology as necessary and promising.
“The highlights of the budget, I cannot complain about it,” Davis said. “We’re grateful that schools did not take the hit that many people anticipated it might.”
Funding for the city’s landmark Summer Youth Employment Program — which was founded by former mayor Marion S. Barry and uses city funds to connect young people between the ages of 14 and 24 with summer jobs — will remain intact this summer. Bowser is expected to provide more details Friday about how the program will operate during the health emergency.
To highlight how the city would be making spending trims across the budget, including during the current fiscal year, officials said the end-of-summer celebration event for the employment program would be canceled.
The budget proposal still leaves many questions unanswered, including how spending will change under new health guidelines. Bowser and City Administrator Rashad M. Young said they hope to use federal coronavirus aid to help facilities, including schools, cover the costs it will take to reopen and comply with health guidelines.
Some of the per-pupil funding is used to pay employees working at the school system’s headquarters.
Individual school budgets in the public school system are based on enrollment, and many schools have struggled with enrollment in recent years, especially in Wards 7 and 8, the swaths of the city with the highest concentrations of poverty. Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said schools that are facing cuts because of declining enrollment will share an infusion of $3.4 million to blunt those reductions.