New Federal Funds Lead to D.C. Budget Delays

Arent Fox
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Arent Fox

After an extended and significant debate on Tuesday, April 6, the DC Council approved a delay in the Mayor’s submission of the FY2022 District budget to May 27, 2021. This is not the first time the budget has been delayed. The previous deadline was April 22, which itself was an extension from the original March 31, 2021 deadline for submission.
 

The Mayor argued that her administration needed more time to formulate the budget because it is still waiting for guidance from the federal government with respect to new federal funds the District will receive. With the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on March 11, 2021, the District is anticipating that there will be more than $2.2 billion allocated to the city for recovery efforts. However, the District is still waiting on guidance regarding when the money will be transmitted to the city and what restrictions may be imposed on spending the federal funds.

This delay likely will not impact all interest groups equally. Some organizations will benefit from the delay because they may prefer more time to advocate for their issues before the Mayor and Council. For others, the postponement of budget consideration could result in a harmful delay in the money being allocated to critical priorities. These sectors, such as affordable housing and education may want to see the Mayor and Council act more quickly. Even with the new submission date, the Council will need to follow the Home Rule Act and take action on the budget within 70 days of the Mayor’s submission. If the Council decides to take all 70 days for consideration, this may mean deliberations will continue into the Council recess, which starts on July 15. Many advocates are watching closely whether the Council will truncate this process, which may limit the opportunities for individuals and organizations to press their causes with the Council. If the Council takes the full time allocated to it under the law for budget consideration, any current, FY21 additional funding priorities likely will not get funded until later in the summer or even into the fall. This could have implications for the recovery efforts for summer programs that are intended to address the education efforts to reverse students learning losses.

Although the budget has been delayed, the Mayor did take the initiative to announce on April 8, 2021, what her administration intends to invest in the education sector this year. In her press release, the Mayor detailed proposed increases to education funding and how she intends to distribute the American Rescue Plan money dedicated to schools. Her announcement included increases to the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) and to the At-Risk funding weight, which are priorities many education groups have long sought from the Mayor. Education advocates will examine the Mayor’s announcement carefully to determine if it meets the priorities set by their organizations.

Mayor Bowser’s Announcement Stated

The UPSFF is the primary funding source for DC’s public schools in both the charter sector and in traditional public schools. The formula allocates funds to each student in DC based on their individual needs, regardless of the school they attend. The FY 22 funding formula includes several updates to better target additional funds for students that have consistently shown the greatest needs over time. Updates include:

  • Increase to at-risk weight from 0.2256 to 0.24, a $12 million net increase over FY21.
  • Creation of new supplemental at-risk weight for students who are over-age in high school, a $3 million investment for a student group that is furthest behind. This is supplemental funding on top of the existing at-risk weight, which over-age high school students will continue to receive.
  • Creation of new weight for English Language Learner (ELL) students in secondary grades, at 0.75, a $11 million net increase in ELL funding over FY21. This reflects the finding of the 2020 UPSFF Study that gaps for ELL students in secondary grades are higher than gaps for ELL students in elementary grades.

In addition to this local investment, Mayor Bowser announced that the District will receive a third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds totaling over $386 million from the American Rescue Plan.

  • Of these funds, the Office of the State Superintendent Education (OSSE) will retain $38.6 million to administer a variety of provisions targeting the recovery and acceleration of learning as well as supporting students’ and families’ needs.
  • Preliminary allocations provided by (OSSE) indicate that DC Public Schools (DCPS) will receive approximately $191 million, and approximately over $156 million will be allocated to District Public Charter schools. The funds are allocated to each Local Education Agency (LEA) based on a federal formula.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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