Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS) is now the DC Charter School Alliance!

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Please visit www.dccharters.org to learn about our new organization and to see the latest news and information related to DC charter schools.

The FOCUS DC medium is online to see historic information, but is not actively updated.

June 4, 2020

My name is Shannon Hodge and I am testifying on behalf of FOCUS. I will also soon be assuming the role of Executive Director of the DC Charter School Alliance, a merger of FOCUS and the Association of Public Chartered Schools. Together, we will be the collective voice of advocacy for the District’s families who have chosen public charter schools as the option that best suits their children’s educational needs. I thank you for the invitation to offer testimony today on the District of Columbia’s FY 2021 Charter School Education Sector Budget.

It was reassuring when the Budget was released and Mayor Muriel Bowser affirmed her commitment to the District’s public schools by including a 3 percent increase in the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula. It was also incredibly reassuring when several members of this Council offered their full support to try to increase that amount to the full 4 percent first discussed before our City was affected by these terrible times in which we find ourselves. …

June 4, 2020

Chairman Mendelson, Chairman Grosso, and Members of the DC Council Committee on Education and Committee of the Whole, thank you for inviting my testimony today at this Joint Budget Oversight Hearing. I am Dr. Ramona Edelin; and for the past 14 years I have served as Executive Director of the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools, the Membership organization founded by Charter School Leaders in 2004 which has been their Collective Voice in matters of public policy, advocacy and strategic communications. As you may know, the Association and FOCUS are in the process of merging to form a powerful new charter school support organization ‒ the DC Charter School Alliance. …

Charter School Advocates Call on Council to Approve Education Increase in Final FY21 Budget

Washington, D.C. — Today, FOCUS Interim Executive Director Anne Herr released the following statement in response to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s release of the FY21 Budget. The budget, which includes a 3% increase to the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula, a 2.2% increase to the school facilities allowance, and $1.5 million for school-based mental health services, continues Mayor Bowser’s consistent commitment to investing in students all across the district.

“COVID-19 has put incredible pressure on the district’s budget, and we recognize that Mayor Bowser had to make tough choices this year. We applaud her for increasing education funding and investing in DC students. These investments are critical to ensure students have access to the instructional and health supports that will be necessary to have them back on track by Summer 2021. We look forward to working with the Education Committee and other members of the D.C. Council to ensure that these increases are part of the final budget so that students have what they need to thrive,” said Herr. …

by Alison Collier, interim co-executive director of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS)

Beyond the tragic toll of fatalities, intensive-care intubations and infections that have forced a radical rethink of daily life, the coronavirus has brought a halt to the District’s strong economy and the revenue it generates…

Read the full story here: https://thedcline.org/2020/05/14/alison-collier-dont-balance-the-budget-on-the-backs-of-vulnerable-children/

By FOCUS staff

National Charter Schools Week is an annual celebration of charter school education in America — a movement that is grounded in the idea that zip codes should not determine destiny, that education should not be one-size fits all, and that parents are best equipped to choose what school works best for their children. This week, we are focusing on how DC schools are going above and beyond to meet the needs of their students and communities during this public health crisis. They have adapted to virtual learning, worked to close the digital divide, and distributed food to families and neighbors. …

By FOCUS Staff

Next week, Mayor Bowser will release her budget, and, while we know that many tough choices will be made, we stand with her in making education funding a priority. The coronavirus has shed light on the many inequities in our school system, and we must give schools the resources they need to support students, particularly those identified as at-risk. Afterall, if our schools are not financially strong, they will not be able to fulfill their responsibilities to students, families, and the community. Read more perspectives below:

The Washington Post: The coronavirus crisis shines light on educational inequalities

The DC Line: Invest in our most vulnerable students

The Washington Post: D.C.’s charter schools must seek out all pandemic relief options

April 24, 2020

By FOCUS staff

In the midst of uncertainty, Washingtonians need to be able to rely on the federal government to help forge a path to stability. Classifying DC as a territory in the stimulus bills is an alarming departure from the long-standing relationship between the District and Congress that jeopardizes our city’s response to the pandemic.

The federal coronavirus relief packages are meant to aid individuals, small businesses, and communities in this time of uncertainty. Right now, federal legislators are underfunding the district by $725 million. According to the Government of the District of Columbia, “DC residents pay more in total federal income tax than residents of 22 other states, but have no say over how those tax dollars are spent.” …

By FOCUS Staff

Even though school buildings will not reopen during this school year, teachers, families, and students will continue to do the hard work of virtual learning. Trying to replicate the academics and community that exist within our schools is a monumental challenge, and we are heartened by the creativity, persistence, and collaborations that are taking place all across the city every day. Schools are distributing meals and technology to families that need it most and working with students to ensure learning continues. This undertaking is ongoing and essential to create stability and equity.

Through all of this, we are holding tight to optimism for the future of every single student. DC’s education system can continue to be a model for other cities. This begins with making sure the budget reflects our values. We all understand the intense budget pressures the District finds itself under, but COVID-19 recovery cannot happen without a strong fiscal commitment to our schools. We need to make sure that all students have access to health care, including mental health care, that they need and that they rely upon schools to deliver. We need to make sure that every student, particularly those identified as at risk, get the support that they need to thrive. In addition to academics, our schools are hubs for social services, and they will need to be so even more when it is safe to open the doors again. …

March 10, 2020

Thank you Chairman Mendelson, Chairman Grosso, Councilmember White, and staff for the opportunity to share our thoughts and opinions about Bill B23–365, which would create a Critical At-Risk Weight in the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) to supplement funds for schools with more than 70% of students identified as at-risk.

I want to start by saying that FOCUS supports the intent of this legislation. We thank Councilmember White and his team for working to address the clear needs of our schools serving students with the highest needs. We echo the comments from our charter schools today that call for additional investments for schools serving high percentages of at-risk students. …

About

Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS)

To increase quality choices for all DC students, FOCUS empowers and supports public charter schools by advocating for school autonomy, equity, and quality.

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