WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - The nation's capital continues to grapple with retaining educators and on Wednesday, more than 400 teachers, parents and students pleaded with the DC Council to think about the next generation when combing through the mayor's 2024 budget.
The meeting began around 9 a.m. with 417 people signed up to speak their mind. Three priorities were coming through loud and clear throughout the day: retaining teachers, student safety and achieving equal pay for both DCPS teachers and the city's public charter school staff.
According to the superintendent, D.C. lost 21% of its teachers last year. On Wednesday, former D.C. teachers said they left because of unflexible work schedules, oversized classrooms and constant pressure.
In December, the Washington Teacher's Union finally reached a deal on compensation after years of stalled negotiations. DCPS teachers get a 12% raise over four years applied retroactively to 2019.
It was a win for the teacher's union, but it doesn't apply to public charter school teachers who only get a bump going back two years.
"I have two students attending charter schools in D.C. and two students attending DCPS schools. I cannot imagine that the council would even consider passing a budget that funds each of my child's educators so inequitably. The difference in what is being proposed to fund D.C. public charter schools versus DCPS is $74,000 per classroom," says Kelly Smith, parent and COO of Perry Street Prep.
One parent called for a meaningful alternative for student safety after the council decided to remove school resource officers. Another complained about class size, not only because that makes teaching more difficult, but also because it makes it more difficult to protect students in the case of an emergency like an active shooter.
Parents were also concerned about students continuing to miss achievement milestones after the pandemic.
"I was appalled when I learned eight out of every 100 students in D.C.'s post pandemic cohort will complete post secondary education in a six-year time span. And, let me be clear, I was appalled because I know that when you disaggregate this statistics and study the data around Black students who are over 60% of D.C.'s student population the likelihood for Black students to fail drastically increases," says Dana Mitchell, parent and Senior Strategist for Kindred Communities.
The council is reviewing the mayor's nearly $20 billion budget now and will continue to take public testimony before they vote on a final version.