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DCPS says closed schools save $17 million

When Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee closed and consolidated 23 under-enrolled schools in 2008, she justified the highly unpopular decision in part by the prospect of significant savings that could be rolled into classrooms. At a meeting with Post editors and reporters in January 2008, she estimated that the school system would save $23 million in operating costs.

Two years later, DCPS says that its projections at the time were actually in the $15 to 20 million range and that it has seen reductions totaling $16.7 million. This includes lower costs for custodial service, security and salaries for principals, assistant principals and other school leadership. It does not cover anticipated savings in food services, and spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway said a complete analysis would have to be done by Chief FInancial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi.

The closings eliminated an estimated two million square feet of space in DCPS' building inventory. On average, according to District figures, each of the closed schools was enrolled at just 51 percent of capacity.

But shuttering schools is also expensive, costing at least $110 million from the city's capital budget. And the empty buildings still generate on-going costs. The District pays about $1.2 million a year in utility costs on the closed schools that remain in the DCPS inventory. Janitorial and engineering services run about $300,000 a year, according to figures provided by the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization.

By Bill Turque  |  May 17, 2010; 11:10 AM ET
 
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Highlight:

At a meeting with Post editors and reporters in January 2008, she estimated that the school system would save $23 million in operating costs.

Two years later, DCPS says that its projections at the time were actually in the $15 to 20 million range and that it has seen reductions totaling $16.7 million.

Posted by: edlharris | May 17, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

So why does DCPS have continual budget problems? Closures and consolidations should have led to more efficiencies as well.

$17 milion in savings for no utility costs and eliminating custodial staff? might be plausible, though the custodians are no more than $150K for 3 at each school. this is a utility cost savings because the custodians were mor than likely just transferred to cover vacancies.


Posted by: oknow1 | May 17, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

How much will a new administration save???

Posted by: cherita_whiting@yahoo.com | May 17, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Don't trip all over yourselves to make up a load of hooey. One person making stuff up at a time, ok?

Posted by: bbcrock | May 17, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

What does that have to do with the current 20 million the central office overan in its 2010 budget (Central Operations budget 110,037,771--actual 130,482,572) while cutting the direct budget to the schools by 34 million (School operations budget 437,885,020-- actual 403,041,664)
Based on expenditures as of March 31, 2010

See the figures for yourself of Natwar Ghandi's Summary of FY 2010 School Operations Resources on the third page of his letter while it is still available here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/15/AR2010041505757.html

A responsible school district central office would have made major cuts to itself prior to impacting the classroom. A less responsible one would have minimally stuck to its own budget. Not so with the current administration which posted a whopping 20 million over budget. The WaPo has historically profiled waste at DCPS central office, yet now hasn't raised an eyebrow, hmmm.
Gee golly gosh, I guess what's really important is the cost saving from school closings 2 years ago in 2008. Resurrecting that old news really distracts us in the public away from the recent DCPS failure to ensure budget priorities directly serve the needs of children above all else. NOT

Seriously could someone at WaPo or DCPS even attempt a plausible explanation of this years budget run wild, Or will the shenanigans just continue into next year...

Posted by: janetcamillebrown | May 17, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

"But shuttering schools is also expensive, costing at least $110 million from the city's capital budget."

Why would it cost 110 million from the city's capital budget? If that's so, would it have been better to leave the schools open?

Posted by: resc | May 17, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to see this information but finding it in the paper rather than directly from the Mayor and/or DCPS administration is one of my problems with the way the District's school reform endeavor is being handled. I thought for sure the chancellor would speak to the question of how much money was saved in the school closings during the Council's performance oversight and budget hearings last year or this year but Council member Cheh's specific questions about it were not answered.
Now, at last we know something. My next question is: how has that money been used? Did it, for example, go into the 23 receiving schools to prepare them for the increased enrollment? Did it go toward the full staffing model that every school is supposed to eventually have? Did it help to reduce violence in the schools and disipline problems? Was a baseline of student academic achievement established before the consolidation so that a true and accurate assessment could be made of the effects of the consolidation that would help to answer the question of whethter or not it played a role in incresed academic achievement?
And what of the changes these 23 school closings led to in terms of residents' in-boundary neighborhood school rights? Did the closings eliminate those further reducing parents' choices and forcing them to send their kids out of the neighborhood to get their publicly mandated and funded public education?
How is the vacancy of school buildings effecting the neighborhoods in general? Is it helping their revitalization or stalling it? How has it effected safety in the neighborhood? Has it changed a neighborhood's identity willy nilly of anyone's desire?
What about promises made to closed/consolidated schools such as Turner-Green, Bruce-Monroe and Shaw Middle school that it is only temporary while a new school building is to be constructed? Who's in charge of that part of the closing/consolidation decision?
And then of course there is the question of how these now vacant properties will be used and who is to have control of that?
And, just as importantly as any of these particular questions, how is the public to be informed on any of these decisions that are being made for our schools, our neighborhoods and how our tax dollars are being used?
Are the Mayor and chancellor shirking off their responsibility to hold themselves accountable to the public and leaving it in Mr. Turque's hands?

Posted by: 1citizen | May 18, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

1citizen, all you post is questions like my toddler child who asks "Why?" and "How?" all the time. Why aren't you educated enough to provide answers or lead? Questions are useless, answers show leadership.

Posted by: bbcrock | May 18, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

How does a closed building generate utility, janitorial, and engineering costs? Are they cleaning these empty buildings or something? Are they expecting to use them later?

Posted by: forgetthis | May 18, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Bill Turque:
Consider your colleague Jay Mathews' practice: Correct, in reply, on your blog. The last paragraph of this note, re: a $110 million capital cost of closing, renders the whole posting incoherent or incomprehensible. Won't your editor permit some background reporting on best-practices for school closings elsewhere in the US?

From the outset, critics of school closings asked about mitigation of total social costs. Everybody understands the costs of vacant boarded up houses soon borne by neighbors, whether in crime, total quality of life, including depreciation of housing values. Why must this be so hard in the case of schools? Abandonment of disabled and obsolete cars on public roadways can be handled. Why not reuse of public buildings?

Posted by: incredulous | May 18, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

"

1citizen, all you post is questions like my toddler child who asks "Why?" and "How?" all the time. Why aren't you educated enough to provide answers or lead? Questions are useless, answers show leadership.

Posted by: bbcrock"

Ah, more geniusosity from the EDUCATED Man.
Pray tell, bb, is this toddler the one who does square roots?

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | May 18, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

1citizen,

Please don't stop asking questions.

Posted by: resc | May 18, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse


And now, everytime I walk past Hine Jr. High (vacant for the past two school years, likely vacant for at least two more school years at least before any wrecking ball shows up), and me dodging all these strollers and teens on Capitol Hill and thinking about the crying need for Junior High classroom space right here at the heart of Capitol Hill, and me thinking the greater number of families would benefit more right now and in the future from an improving Hine Jr. High at that central location than will benefit years from now from a 7-story monstrosity of apartments and office space at that prime commercial location...I think, thank God for Michelle Rhee, she did it for the children! She put the needs of children ahead of the needs of developers!

Posted by: Trulee | May 18, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

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