Getting rolled on enrollment
DCPS talks a lot about transparency. Its mission statement says the central office will be “efficient, transparent and responsive.” The lottery for placement of out-of-boundary students has been tweaked “to improve transparency.” New human resources software will “increase transparency of payroll and benefits.”
In her most recent newsletter, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee says financial conditions will make the 2011 budget a challenge, but one that can be overcome “starting with transparent and substantive discussions among all stakeholders.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to enrollment projections--a critical indicator of the school system’s health and the subject of a bitter fight between Rhee and the D.C. Council last year--the fog starts to roll in.
To help schools develop their budgets this winter, Rhee enlisted the 21st Century Schools Fund and the Urban Institute to dig deep into housing and demographic data to come up with authoritative enrollment estimates for the 2010-2011 school year (The current unaudited figure stands at 45,772).
There are signs that the system’s long, steep enrollment decline (from 146,000 in 1960, to 80,000 in 1980 to 67,000 in 2000) has bottomed out. So the next round of projections are eagerly awaited, and potentially historic.
Principals got their numbers on Jan. 4 and had two days to appeal if they thought the figures were off. But Rhee told an audience of administrators and parents in December that there will be “an incredibly high bar” for changes. As of Monday, the numbers were set.
So our faithfully transparent school system can show us the data, right?
“Enrollment projections are preliminary at this point and schools are currently reviewing them as part of the budget development process. The final projections will be included and released when the Mayor’s budget is submitted to Council,” said Rhee spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway.
That would be sometime in March.
The Freedom of Information Act isn’t much help. It requires a response within 15 working days, with the government getting an extra ten days if needed. The District’s fidelity to this requirement is pretty much nonexistent. I’m still waiting on two requests I filed September 25.
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