We Must Prioritize Student and Educator Wellness

Councilmember Nadeau delivered the following remarks at the April 11, 2024 Committee of the Whole budget oversight hearing for the District of Columbia Public Schools and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. 

Thank you all for being here today. I look forward to hearing the government witness testimony on the FY25 education budget for DCPS and OSSE. Thank you to the hundreds of public witnesses who put in time and energy testifying last week. It is because of your advocacy and drive that our city has seen many historic investments over the years.

Advocates, organizations, lawmakers, and other in our community invest time, energy, funds, and so much passion into passing legislation and budgets that will make a positive impact. This past year there have been many discussions and statements made about the importance of addressing teacher and principal retention, student absenteeism, and youth crime — and about helping our students succeed and return to pre-pandemic academic achievement levels.

We have heard from school leaders, educators, families, and students about their priorities, and they have told us what works and what doesn’t. We know that without investments in the mental, emotional, and financial well-being of our educational community, our kids will struggle to succeed. And yet, the FY25 budget lets these folks down. Once again, schools have had to cut positions to make ends meet. Once again, effective, community-oriented programs have been underfunded. Once again, programs that our residents need most are under threat of being eliminated. While there are things in the education budget to be excited about, they are overshadowed by huge cuts and reductions in critical areas.

Flexible Scheduling grants were reduced by $1 million; Grow Your Own programs were cut by over 500 thousand; 10 million was taken from the Childcare Subsidy program; the Community Schools Program was eliminated; PKEEP and the Quality Improvement Network saw reductions; School-Based Behavioral Health lost 3 million in net funding; the GW Community of Practice was eliminated; and the Early Childhood Pay Equity Fund was gutted. As one of the original authors of the legislation that established the fund, this is a top priority for me.

I am also frustrated by cuts to school budgets, which target programs and positions critical to well-rounded youth development and eliminate at least 200 full-time-equivalent positions, many of which are special education, at-risk, and English language learner positions at Ward 1 schools. While we all understand the “rightsizing” that has been so often referenced this budget season, we are going to have to find the funding for these positions. Cutting FTEs when we are trying to prevent teacher burnout and absenteeism is the exact opposite of what we should be doing.

For far too long schools in the District have lacked sufficient support, and because of it our students have suffered. It is imperative that we hold District government accountable for supporting our schools and our students. The profound influence of a stable, secure, and productive school environment on children, particularly those at risk of not realizing their full potential or engaging in potentially harmful activities, cannot be overstated. When our schools, educators, and students do not receive the tailored support they require, turnover rates for teachers and principals rise, student attendance declines, and we fall short in preparing our youth for adulthood, causing ripple effects and far-reaching consequences across our city.

If we want to fight pervasive truancy, prevent crime, fill District jobs with District residents, and help our students succeed, then we must prioritize educator and student wellness, both financially and emotionally, in early childhood, adult education, and at every level in between. If our goal is to have a healthy, equitable, and safe city then we must invest in mental health supports for students and teachers, incorporate flexible scheduling into our school models, and prioritize funding for essential programs such as the Pay Equity Fund. We can’t go backwards and further exacerbate teacher burnout and student absenteeism. I will be pushing to restore funding to these programs that give students the promise of success and give our teachers and other educators the support they need to help students achieve.

I will be back later to ask questions. I look forward to hearing from our government witnesses. Thank you.


On Friday, immediately after the announcement, I sent a letter to Mayor Bowser asking that the city work with the owner of the property to collaborate on a plan to keep Rosemount open where it is.

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