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Posted at 7:46 PM ET, 02/22/2011

Per-student funding, charter facilities allowance, headed south in Gray's budget proposal

By Bill Turque

Bad budget news continues to trickle out of Mayor Vincent C. Gray's administration.

New deputy mayor for education De'Shawn Wright says that the proposed "foundation level" for fiscal year 2012 Uniform Per Student Funding Formula will be $8,770. If that number holds, it means that public and public charter schools will be financing next year's operations with the same per-student allocation they had in fiscal year 2010.

The current fiscal year (2011) started with a boost to $8,945, trimmed back to $8,770 in the November-December budget adjustments. Holding it flat, of course, means a significant cut.

Wright also told charter school administrators in an e-mail that the proposed per-student facilities allowance will be $2,800, a $200 drop from the beginning of FY 11. Charters, which must lease space or finance the construction of their buildings, depend on the allowance for rent or to accumulate the capital reserves necessary for bank financing. Charter advocates, who were heartened by Gray's campaign promises of funding parity relative to traditional public schools, say it will make both objectives tougher.

Wright, who has his confirmation hearing tomorrow afternoon, said in his e-mail that with the District's projected budget gap, "no agency can be held entirely harmless."

"As you are no doubt aware, the District faces extremely daunting financial challenges in FY 2012. Though still a moving target, the District's FY12 budget gap has grown to around $550 million. With a gap of that size, it will take vast expenditure reductions as well as revenue enhancements to right size the budget. This means there will need to be some shared sacrifice. Having said that, schools have been and continue to be a priority for the Mayor. The City Administrator, Mayor, and I are committed to ensuring that all of our LEAs are as informed and engaged as possible as we work towards an equitable and sustainable budget."

Wright said three factors could change these numbers, pushing them either up or down. Two are reports expected soon from Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi: his revised revenue estimate and the "Current Services Funding Level" budget --which essentially takes the current level of services and programs and determines how much they would cost next year with no funding increase. Then there is the federal budget picture.

"All three of these factors will weigh heavily on our budget gap, so any substantial positive or negative changes may necessitate adjustments to the final marks," Wright said.

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By Bill Turque  | February 22, 2011; 7:46 PM ET
 
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