The D.C. Council’s Committee on Education approved a revised capital budget plan Thursday that reorders some school projects and factors in a ranking of school projects based on some objective criteria.
Under the new plan, Garrison Elementary in Ward 2 would receive about half of the funding that was proposed in Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) plan, with a $20 million commitment for next year, rather than a two-year commitment of $41 million. Some other projects were moved up in the queue, including Houston and Kimball elementaries in Ward 7, Maury Elementary in Ward 6, Hyde-Addison Elementary in Ward 2, and Raymond Elementary in Ward 4.
Before announcing his budget recommendations, D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), chairman of the Education Committee, noted that decisions were guided by financial limitations. He said during public hearings, witnesses advocated for 20 different schools to begin construction next year. “That was simply not possible,” he said. He recommended moving back to an approach of renovating in phases so more schools can see improvements sooner.
The $1.3 billion, six-year school construction plan that Bowser proposed last month prompted protests because it pushed back more than 40 school projects, while increasing the price tag of others including Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which is now expected to cost nearly $180 million. (The revised plan trims $4 million from the school’s construction budget for next year).
In response, the Education Committee developed a facility analysis that ranks schools based on relative need. The criteria include the condition of the facility, previous construction or upgrades, enrollment growth at the school and in the community.
Schools were rated on a standard score of 1 to 5 in each category for a maximum base score of 5. Bonus points, worth a quarter point each, were awarded to schools that have portables or schools where more than 75 percent of the students are considered “at risk.”
Some of the schools that got moved up in the timeline ranked high on the list: Houston and Kimball and Raymond are ranked in the top 10. Some others did not: Hyde-Addison ranked number 85, and Maury ranked 29.
Eliot-Hine, a Ward 6 middle school that got delayed for three years in the mayor’s budget, remained in the plan with a 2019 start. Many parents have pushed for a faster time line, and council member Charles Allen (Ward 6) introduced an amendment that would have accelerated construction. The amendment failed. Grosso noted that many schools rank higher than Eliot-Hine on the ranking. (It came in 49th.)
Allen proposed a second amendment, which passed, that allocated some funds for planning and designs over the next two years at Eliot-Hine and Jefferson Middle School, which was also delayed in this year’s capital budget. Each school will get $3 million split over the next two years. For next year, the funding will be taken out of Ellington’s budget.
Allen’s rationale for the change was to “restore the residents’ faith in the capital planning process and the District government” after experiencing multiple delays.
Here’s a look at the ranking of schools. The complete list and revised budget are available here.
(This post has been updated.)