The D.C. schools’ proposed $773 million fiscal 2009 budget is garnering attention not only for the millions added for art and music classes, but for what it doesn’t have — money for special education tuition, transportation and attorney’s fees, which annually created huge shortfalls.
Under Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s takeover of the 49,600-student school system, city officials have shifted to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education a total of $231.5 million in costs associated with educating about 2,000 disabled students in private schools. For years, severe overspending on tuition, transportation and attorney’s fees has contributed to budget gaps, forcing the system to lay off teachers and shift as much as $54 million from classroom instruction.
Previously, the system assumed the duties of a state and a local district, essentially overseeing itself. That structure led to the mismanagement of millions of dollars in federal funds, according to the Department of Education, which designated the system a “high risk” grantee.
In the new structure, all oversight responsibilities and other duties associated with a state were transferred to the state superintendent. Another problem area — school construction and maintenance — was shifted to the new Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization.