Capital city teachers plead to ‘Fund Our Future’

The Washington Teachers’ Union launched a Fund Our Future campaign March 29, demanding adequate staffing, funds for computer labs and libraries, and even basic custodial supplies and repairs.

Accusing city leaders of misleading statements about the most recent budget proposals, the union (which represents more than 5,000 active and retired teachers in Washington, D.C.) says the budget would actually decrease funding for crucial services in the schools. “We won’t accept twisted school budget explanations that create the impression the budget strengthens our schools when the truth is that District of Columbia Public Schools would be losing massive amounts of funding,” said WTU President Elizabeth Davis at a news conference prior to testifying before the D.C. Council’s Education Committee. “Instead of starving our schools, we have to fund our future.”

WTU teachers wear “Red for Ed”
WTU teachers wear “Red for Ed” in support of a better budget.

“We are fed up with lip service about the importance of making sure our kids get a great public education, but then the city doesn’t follow through with a budget that adequately meets the needs of our kids,” says Dominique Foster, parent of a Ballou High School student. Schools are in dire need of lab supplies, smaller class sizes, and basic repairs to fix bathrooms and holes in walls. “It’s unacceptable that schools aren’t getting enough funding to be able to have decent-sized classes, bathrooms with working sinks and toilets, and ceilings that don’t leak,” says Anna Parra-Jordan, a junior at Wilson High School.

If the budget passes as proposed, many of the DCPS schools with the highest percentage of at-risk students would lose funding and staff. For example:

  • Anacostia High School, with 95 percent of its students considered to be at risk, would lose $319,685 on paper but suffer a real loss of $1.2 million due to hidden security costs and increased personnel as well as other costs the district would no longer cover. The school is losing more than 12 staff positions.
  • Ballou High School, with 91 percent at-risk students, would lose $165,089 on paper but suffer a real loss of $1.3 million. It is losing nearly 13 staff positions.
  • H.D. Woodson High School, with 81 percent at-risk students, would lose $36,438 on paper but suffer a real loss of $896,588. It is losing nearly seven staff positions.

To counter these losses, WTU has launched a Fund Our Future petition drive. The petition calls for adequate staffing levels; funding to address each school’s most pressing concerns as identified by the principal and Local School Advisory Team members; scheduling and staffing that avoids assigning teachers to teach outside their certification; adequate funding to make computer labs, libraries and other resources available when students need them; designated funding for school security so that cost does not diminish educational resources; and funding for classroom, custodial and other supplies necessary to maintain healthy and safe learning environments.

WTU’s Fund Our Future campaign is part of a national effort by the AFT to urge lawmakers to approve budgets that accurately reflect the needs of students and what they require to succeed in school, college and career.
“Parents, students and communities like Washington, D.C., are demanding teaching and learning conditions that all kids deserve,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “We need to make public education a priority, and the D.C. Council needs to take the public’s demands very seriously.”

[Virginia Myers, WTU staff]