The D.C. Council approved more than $40 million last year to meet the needs of students who are considered at-risk in D.C. Public Schools.
Some 40 percent of the city’s public school students are considered “at risk,” according to a new category being used in the District. That includes students who are in foster care or homeless, who are receiving welfare benefits or food stamps, or who are performing at least a year behind in high school. The extra funding — $2,079 per eligible student — is supposed to help schools mitigate the effects of poverty that can interfere with a student’s ability to learn.
According to the law, the money is supposed to follow the student. But in the first year, the funds were not strictly allocated according to enrollment in D.C. Public Schools, because of a time crunch in the budget cycle. Instead the extra money was used to support Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s priorities, including improving middle schools, refining literacy instruction in low-performing schools and boosting student satisfaction, efforts that officials have said reached a lot of at-risk students.
A new interactive Web site created by D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute and Code for D.C. gives a snapshot of how much funding each school received. (Code for D.C. is a group of volunteer data scientists who use public information to address civic challenges.) The tables show that some schools with high numbers of at-risk students got relatively little funding, while others with small numbers of at-risk students got more. Mann Elementary in Ward 3, for example, has two students considered at-risk but received $30,000 for a student satisfaction grant.
As the next budget is being developed, Soumya Bhat, education finance and policy analyst for the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, said she is concerned about competing priorities. Henderson has said she plans to focus new funds on high schools next year, and many people want to see extra spending in middle schools continued.
“We know there are a lot of priorities,” Bhat said. “But we definitely think schools with the largest concentrations of at-risk students should see their share.”
This table shows the school-by-school breakdown. To see the full interactive with information for every school, go to http://atriskfunds.ourdcschools.org.