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Interagency working group releases recommendations to improve education of students in the care of the District of Columbia

For Immediate Release:
July 18, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Interagency working group releases recommendations to improve education of students in the care of the District of Columbia

Washington, D.C. – A working group composed of over 30 entities convened by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, today released recommendations to improve the educational outcomes of students who are in the care of the District of Columbia government.

“The government of the District of Columbia has a responsibility to provide high-quality education to the youth who are in its care,” Grosso said. “The recommendations put forward by the working group push D.C. to better fulfill that responsibility by improving coordination between agencies and reducing barriers to educational achievement for these often-overlooked youth.”

The Students in the Care of the District of Columbia Working Group* was brought together by Councilmember Grosso in February to improve collaboration and coordination among entities responsible for educating and caring for students who are detained, committed, incarcerated, or placed in foster care.

“In my time on the Council, I have consistently raised concerns about the school-to-prison pipeline. However, the educational needs of our students who are involved with the justice or foster care systems have not received the attention they deserve,” said Grosso.

Students in the care of D.C. experience many disruptions to education which make it difficult for them to achieve their educational goals, according to the report.

Those who were experiencing challenges in their academic career prior to detention, commitment, incarceration, or placement in foster care are at increased risk of falling even further behind in their education.

Many of these students are placed outside of the District of Columbia and are highly mobile. Consequently, they experience issues enrolling in school, obtaining transferrable credit, and receiving special education and related services. As a result, earning a high school diploma is far more difficult.

The group issued nearly 40 recommendations for the various agencies that are involved in the care and education of youth in D.C. to improve their communication, collaboration, and coordination. Additionally, the working group recommends three legislative solutions, which Councilmember Grosso intends to explore for introduction when the Council returns from recess in the fall.

Other councilmembers participated in the working group and expressed a commitment to continuing the work started by Grosso.

“I was encouraged to see such a large coalition of stakeholders and advocates participate, which allowed us to gain a greater understanding of the challenges faced by students in the care of the District, involved in the juvenile justice system, and in foster care,” said Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, chairperson of the Committee on Human Services. “With this knowledge, I look forward to working with Councilmember Grosso and the rest of Council to improve how the District oversees the education and care of some our most vulnerable students.”

“The District government has a responsibility to provide the children in our juvenile justice, criminal justice and child welfare systems with a meaningful education,” said At-Large Councilmember Robert White. “I commend Councilmember Grosso and all the members of the Students in the Care of the District of Columbia Working Group for working collaboratively to reduce the barriers faced by too many children in the District's care.”

“I applaud the agencies who participated in the working group for their willingness to acknowledge shortcomings and commit to improvement for the sake of these underserved youth. I also greatly appreciate the engagement of advocacy organizations, youth, and my Council colleagues to charter a path forward on this vital issue,” said Grosso.

Download the report here.

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*The Students in the Care of the District of Columbia Working Group comprised Advocates for Justice and Education; Campaign for Youth Justice; Center for Educational, Excellence in Alternative Settings; Children’s Law Center; Council for Court Excellence; Court Services & Offender Supervision Agency; D.C. Child and Family Services Agency; D.C. Corrections Information Council; D.C. Department of Corrections; D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Service; D.C. Public Charter School Board; D.C. Public Schools; D.C. ReEngagement Center; Free Minds Book Club; Georgetown University Law Juvenile Justice Initiative; GOODProjects; Kingsman Academy Public Charter School; Maya Angelou Schools & SeeForever Foundation; Monument Academy Public Charter School; Office of Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau (Ward 1), Chairperson of the Committee on Human Services; Office of Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6), Chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary & Public Safety; Office of Councilmember David Grosso (At-Large), Chairperson of the Committee on Education; Office of Councilmember Robert C. White Jr. (At-Large); Office of Councilmember Trayon White, Sr. (Ward 8); Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia; Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education; Office of the State Superintendent of Education; Open City Advocates; Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia; School Justice Project; and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Family Court Social Services Division

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Education Committee continues work on outstanding education concerns over Council’s summer recess

For Immediate Release:
July 13, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Education Committee continues work on outstanding education concerns over Council’s summer recess

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, about the Committee’s work focus over the Council’s summer recess:

“Over the past eight months I have held several hearings, roundtables, town halls, and public engagement sessions focused on the challenges the District of Columbia faces in preparing our students for college, career, and life, but also with the structure of our education system. I believe we have made significant progress on several fronts, including a budget that invests in greater academic and non-academic supports for our students, keeps students in school by reducing exclusionary discipline, provides unprecedented funding for equitable out-of-school time programming, and requires additional transparency in how schools expend public dollars.

“There is still much more we must accomplish. Over the summer, my staff and I are working diligently so that we can address concerns that have been voiced over the first half of this year and continue putting students in the best position to succeed once the Council returns in the middle of September.

“One area of agreement I have gleaned from community conversations is the need for a more independent Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Over the summer, I will engage students, parents, educators, my colleagues, the community, and policy experts on how best to empower our state education agency and reduce the influence of politics on its work. I anticipate introducing legislation on this matter in the fall.

“I will continue meeting with OSSE, DCPS, and the Public Charter School Board, and the interim Deputy Mayor for Education, to monitor final graduation rates for school year 2017-2018, and the implementation of the corrective action plan to ensure we are graduating and promoting students who have met their academic requirements and are prepared for the next step on their academic or workforce journey in 2019.

“My staff is also conducting research and benchmarking policy proposals to create greater cross-sector budget transparency, provide adequate special education supports, promote school attendance through improved safe passage and transportation options, and improve school safety.

“Finally, as the mayor’s Chancellor search committee and Office of Talent and Appointments identify nominees to fill the vacuum of executive education leadership in the city, I will lay out a public engagement process to solicit the feedback of education stakeholders, especially teachers, in the confirmation of permanent Deputy Mayor for Education and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor.

“I invite the public to contact my office with their thoughts on any of these issues and encourage youth and the community to attend the four remaining Summer Education Town Halls I am holding across the city. Your continued engagement is integral to our students’ success.”

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Grosso names Akeem Anderson as new Education Committee director

For Immediate Release:
July 10, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso names Akeem Anderson as new Education Committee director

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, appointed Akeem Anderson the new director of the Committee on Education, effective June 25, 2018.

“I am extremely excited to welcome Akeem to Team Grosso as our new committee director and have been impressed with the enthusiasm he has shown in just a few short weeks on the job,” said Grosso of the appointment. “Akeem comes to the committee at a turbulent time for public education in the District of Columbia, but I have no doubt that his experience, professionalism, and passion will serve the committee’s integral oversight role and innovative policy development well as we continue the work to put every D.C. child in the best position to succeed.”

“I look forward to bringing my experiences both in the classroom and at DCPS to the Committee on Education and Councilmember Grosso’s work as chairperson to continue building on the successes in the D.C. education sector over the last 10 years with a particular focus on continuing to support the development of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring equity in supports and resources across the District,” said Anderson.

Prior to his appointment, Anderson served two and a half years at D.C. Public Schools as a Continuous Improvements Specialist in the Office of School Design and Continuous Improvements. There he worked with school leaders in DCPS to identify trends in student performance data, used those trends to craft school plans, and tracked success throughout the school year. Before that, Anderson worked with schools in crafting and monitoring their school turnaround plans and also co-managed the District's Empowering Males of Color Grant—16 grants that cover 22 schools aimed at increasing academic and socio-emotional outcomes for Black and Latino boys in DCPS.

A 2008 Greater New Orleans TFA Corps Member, Anderson taught in New Orleans schools for two years before working for TFA-New Orleans as a Manager Corps and Partner Relations. He holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and English from Mercer University.

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Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on Police Incident Outside Nook’s Barbershop

For Immediate Release: 
June 26, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on Police Incident Outside Nook’s Barbershop

Washington, D.C. –The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the incident that occurred at Nook’s Barbershop in Deanwood on June 13, 2018:

“The police-initiated incident at Nook’s Barbershop is emblematic of an approach to policing that has led to a lack of trust between our police and the neighborhoods they serve. More police and aggressive, questionable tactics have all been tried before and yet violence persists. There is a better way.

“As I have said before, I remain committed to a different approach to public safety, one that would see a transformation of the Metropolitan Police Department into an agency whose highest priorities include promoting non-violence and collaborating meaningfully with our communities and neighborhoods. It would be about recognizing that people in the community should be leaders in creating a safer environment, with support of the police, not the other way around.

“The community deserves answers. I look forward to the completion of an investigation with the findings being made public as soon as possible.”
 

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Grosso promotes retail equity with bill to prohibit cashless retail

For Immediate Release:
June 26, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso promotes retail equity with bill to prohibit cashless retail

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced legislation that promotes equity at local businesses by ending the trend towards cashless retail, a discriminatory practice that excludes District residents who do not have a credit or debit card.

The Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018 requires retail food establishments operating in the District of Columbia to accept cash as a form of payment. Further, it prohibits the discrimination against anyone who chooses to use cash as a form of payment, such as charging different prices.

“By denying patrons the ability to use cash as a form of payment, businesses are effectively telling lower-income and young patrons that they are not welcome,” Grosso said. “Practices like this further stratify our diverse city when we should be working to foster greater inclusion.”

One in ten residents in the District of Columbia has no bank. An additional one in four are underbanked and therefore may not have access to a debit or credit card.  

“Through this bill, we can ensure that all D.C. residents and visitors can continue to patronize the businesses they choose while avoiding the potential embarrassment of being denied service simply because they lack a credit card,” Grosso said.

Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on unlicensed educators in D.C. Public Schools

For Immediate Release:
June 21, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on unlicensed educators in D.C. Public Schools

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, on the news reports regarding unlicensed D.C. Public Schools staff:

“I am again frustrated with D.C. Public Schools over this most recent failure to properly follow established laws and regulations.  These licensing requirements were put in place to ensure that our students are safe and that we have quality educators in our schools. I applaud OSSE for continuing to hold DCPS to account and working with the central office to certify that educators have the proper and up-to-date licensure for the 2018-19 school year.

“However, there remains a greater question about whether we have the appropriate requirements in place for all school staff in both our traditional public and public charter schools.  The Committee on Education will be focused on that question over the summer as part of its work to improve school safety and will hold hearings on this matter once the Council returns from its recess in September.”

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Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on the separation of immigrant families by the Trump Administration

For Immediate Release:
June 15, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on the separation of immigrant families by the Trump Administration

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), on the separation of immigrant families by the Trump Administration:

"In recent days, I have been heartbroken by the news reports, videos, and images of families torn apart and caged by the Trump Administration in their callous enforcement of immigration laws. These camps harken back to World War II-era Japanese internment camps, one of the most shameful times in U.S. history and are no different than the ICE raids we saw last year in the District of Columbia. They have one intent: to instill fear into our communities and neighbors. Since he took office, the president has utilized fear to meet his political aims and satisfy his base without any thought to the broken families and traumatized children he leaves in his wake.

"This is immoral and, like many residents and local leaders across the country, I feel powerless. We are still a promised land to many around the world who seek to escape the unsafe or inhumane conditions of the place they were born.  We should meet those seeking refuge with open arms, not locked cells.

"I have always believed that the District of Columbia and the United States are stronger because of the diversity of thought, culture, and language that immigration adds to our history and heritage.  We should be doing more to ensure that immigrants feel welcome in our communities and our country.  That’s why I have fought for legislation that would lower language barriers to education in D.C., change our government issued I.D.s to ensure our residents cannot be targeted by ICE, provide legal aid to those whose status in our country is in question, and even allow some of our immigrant residents to vote in our local elections.

"I want to reiterate that my office remains open to anyone who has been, or knows someone who was, affected by the Trump Administration’s immigration policy. Please contact my office at 202.724.8105 so we can connect you to organizations who can assist."

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4 Comments

Grosso expresses support for Ellington and fair resolution to residency claims

For Immediate Release:
June 12, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso expresses support for Ellington and fair resolution to residency claims

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, regarding the Duke Ellington School of the Arts:

“The Duke Ellington School of the Arts is one of the premier public arts education high schools in the country, if not the world. The District of Columbia government and local philanthropic partners have put significant resources into the school, including most recently an extensive modernization of the building. This state of the art school is intended for, and ought to serve, residents of the District.

“Throughout my time as a Councilmember and as Chairperson of the Committee on Education, I have been an avid promoter of the arts, and of arts education in particular. My passion for the arts and the remarkable benefits they bring to our city extends to the storied Ellington. The entire District should be proud of this gem of a school. 

“Last month, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) issued findings of non-residency against a number of students at Ellington. It is unacceptable that a large number of non-resident students may be attending such a premier institution of learning at the expense of District taxpayers. However, any implicated family who legitimately has residency in the District should be able to provide proper documentation and resolve the issue. My office has spoken with families who fit this category but find their efforts to cure the issue stymied. While I fully support OSSE rigorously enforcing our residency requirements, there must also be an opportunity for families to resolve inaccuracies. I am calling today on the Mayor and Attorney General to figure out a way to quickly and fairly resolve these circumstances so that families can move on or avail themselves of the due process rights that they are owed.

“Unfortunately, the challenging situation facing the school and these families has been muddied by real and perceived bias from neighbors toward Ellington students. This has led to supporters of the school worrying that it is being unfairly targeted in an attempt to remove it. I want every Ellington student, family, staff member, and supporter to know that I do not support any effort to end the Ellington program, relocate it, or otherwise diminish its strength.

“I believe that we can come out of this scenario with a stronger Ellington, serving more D.C. residents and with a more robust set of applicants as we put more emphasis on arts education in DCPS and charter K-8 schools. Ellington’s future in D.C. is a bright one.”

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Councilmembers David Grosso and Robert White introduce legislation to improve LGBTQ health data

For Immediate Release:
June 5, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmembers David Grosso and Robert White introduce legislation to improve LGBTQ health data

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmembers David Grosso (I-At Large) and Robert White (D-At-Large) introduced a bill to improve the documentation by D.C. agencies of health outcomes and behavioral risk factors of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community, as the federal government prepares to limit its collection of this critical public health data.

“At a time when the federal government is retreating from its responsibility to protect everyone’s human rights, D.C. must do everything it can to ensure those rights,” said Councilmember David Grosso. “We have a responsibility to meet the unique health needs of our LGBTQ residents.  Requiring our agencies to collect this critical public health data will better inform our policymaking and improve the health outcomes of all District residents.”

“We celebrate Pride in June, but we must go beyond words and parades to affirm and support our LGBTQ friends and neighbors. We need to push back on these proposals by the Trump administration that would impact their health by pretending they don’t exist,” said Councilmember Robert White.

The LGBTQ Health Data Collection Amendment Act of 2018 would require the District Department of Health to collect demographic data on sexual orientation and gender identity through its annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS).

The BRFSS is a cross-sectional telephone survey conducted by state health departments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia with technical and methodological assistance provided by the Center for Disease Control.

It would also require the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to collect information on the sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression of respondents to the school-based Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). YRBSS monitors six types of health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults.

“Having a better understanding of how our students identify and the impact their sexual orientation or gender identity has on their behavior and risk factors will enable schools to better serve our students’ non-academic health needs,” Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, said. “When those needs are met, we know they are better prepared to succeed academically.”

All levels of government rely on the data from these surveys when making policy choices to address public health issues. Recently, Trump administration officials with the Center for Disease Controls hinted that they would discontinue the collection of this data.

Additionally, the bill would require that the data collected be used in the annual report on the health of the District’s LGBTQ community, a collaborative effort of the Department of Health and the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

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Addressing our education challenges requires urgent action

For Immediate Release:
May 23, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Addressing our education challenges requires urgent action

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, on D.C. Public Schools and the Mayor’s repeated failure to meet deadlines and respond to the Committee on Education’s inquiries:

“It has been a tumultuous year for education in the District of Columbia. We have made some progress, but it has truly been in spite of the leadership of the Mayor and D.C. Public Schools who continue to drag their feet and throw up walls to the Committee and the Council’s oversight role.

“Last Tuesday I sent a letter to DCPS asking them to lay out the steps they have taken to address the graduation issues that have recently arisen and help students get back on track to graduate. I also requested they provide data to the Committee on Education that will better inform our policymaking so that the Council can be an effective partner in setting our students up for academic success. Another day, another deadline missed. 

“Six weeks ago, I sent a letter to the Mayor expressing my concern that we cannot begin to effectively tackle these issues without stable leadership in the form of a permanent Deputy Mayor for Education and DCPS Chancellor. I asked her to lay out a timeline for the search process and public engagement plan so that we can guarantee that parents, teachers, students, and administrators have buy-in of her eventual nominees and avoid the criticisms lobbed at the opaque process which resulted in the selection of Antwan Wilson. To date, I have not received a response. The Mayor has instead decided to wait until after the June primary, in which she is a candidate, to even begin the search. Next school year will almost certainly begin without a permanent chancellor in place unless we significantly curtail public input, which I have no intention of doing.

“Back in February, after receiving compelling evidence that teachers throughout the city, across grade levels, and in both sectors of public education feel pressure to pass students, it became apparent that issues with graduation and grade promotion may extend beyond high schools.  I asked the Mayor to expand and deepen the graduation investigation completed through Alvarez and Marsal to the charter sector and into the lower grades so that we can fully understand the problems throughout our system.

"It has been three months and the Mayor has not responded, despite repeated assurances from her team that a response was coming.

“These continuing failures to provide answers to simple questions betray a troubling lack of urgency on the part of DCPS and the Executive in addressing the education challenges facing our city. 

“Councilmember Robert White and I will introduce emergency legislation to ensure that students who meet their academic requirements and would otherwise be on track to graduate or be promoted to the next grade but for their absences in the first three terms of this school year are able to advance to the next step in their academic career. This will represent only a minor fix—there are currently over 1,000 DCPS seniors not on track to graduate this year due to poor academic achievement. I can think of few issues that are more urgent, but the Executive Branch seems to accept the status quo.”
 

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Grosso, Evans collaborate to establish dedicated funding for the arts, humanities, and creative economy in the District of Columbia

For Immediate Release:
May 15, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso, Evans collaborate to establish dedicated funding for the arts, humanities, and creative economy in the District of Columbia

Washington, D.C. – In a major victory for the artistic and creative sectors of the District of Columbia, Councilmembers David Grosso (I-At Large) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) have secured a dedicated funding stream for the arts, humanities, and creative economy in D.C.’s fiscal year 2019 budget, which the Council preliminarily approved on its first vote today.

“The arts, humanities, and creative economy have been major drivers of cultural and economic growth in the District of Columbia,” Grosso said. “The dedicated funding included in the budget will provide strong, stable investments that will continue to grow our thriving artistic and creative sectors for the foreseeable future. I truly appreciate Councilmember Evans’ partnership on this effort. Without it, and his persistent commitment to the arts, humanities, and creative economy, this would not have been possible.”

The budget dedicates 0.3 percent of the existing general sales tax to fund $30 million for arts, humanities, and creative economy grants annually.

“I am thrilled that dedicated funding for the arts and humanities in the District is now a reality,” said Councilmember Evans. “I have been a champion for expanding and funding arts programs since I joined the Council in the early 1990s and this yearly revenue will make a difference to ensure more grants are funded. Councilmember Grosso has been a great advocate for the arts and I’m grateful for his partnership in securing these funds.”

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Grosso dismayed by depth of residency fraud at Duke Ellington

For Immediate Release:
May 11, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso dismayed by depth of residency fraud at Duke Ellington

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, on today’s release of a report on residency fraud at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education:

“Today’s report not only confirms the stunning depth of residency fraud at Duke Ellington, but also that the previous two chancellors had repeatedly lied to the Committee and the Council about how profound this problem is. I continue to grow frustrated with the lack of transparency from D.C. Public Schools and the Executive and this is the latest blow to their credibility. That is why I pushed to have OSSE assume responsibility of DCPS residency investigations last year and made investments through the annual budget process to provide resources to fulfill those responsibilities.

“Through their diligent work, the agency has revealed that up to 40 percent of students at Duke Ellington, representing over $2 million in D.C.-taxpayer funded education a year, are not District residents and had no plan to reimburse the District for tuition. Under no circumstances is this acceptable.

“I appreciate the work of OSSE and Superintendent Hanseul Kang on this issue. Over the years she has acknowledged that investigating residency fraud was an area that OSSE needed to improve. Today’s report, along with the additional 111 cases of potential residency fraud from throughout the District that OSSE has referred to the Attorney General this school year, show that the agency is ensuring that D.C. schools are serving D.C. students.

“The District of Columbia is full of brilliant young artists and musicians who deserve the ability to attend Duke Ellington. One of the premiere public arts education programs in the country, the school should serve D.C. families first and foremost. Yet the breadth of these allegations shows that the school and DCPS were, at the least, extremely lax in oversight.

 “I will be monitoring DCPS’ and Duke Ellington’s compliance with the corrective action plan laid out by OSSE to improve both school-level and central office compliance with our residency requirements. Additionally, I will continue to support OSSE’s role of investigating and reporting residency fraud in D.C. schools by making the necessary investments, including the four additional full-time equivalents and $300,000 for contract support approved unanimously by the Education Committee last week for FY2019.”

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Councilmember Grosso requires increased transparency in education sector and invests in expanded educational opportunities

For Immediate Release:
May 4, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso requires increased transparency in education sector and invests in expanded educational opportunities

Washington, D.C. – Under the leadership of Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), the Committee on Education today unanimously passed its recommendations for the District of Columbia FY2019 budget. The Committee’s recommendations require greater transparency from the education sector when formulating its budget. It also makes new investments that put students in the best position to succeed by creating positive school climates, bolstering community schools, and expanding access to multilingual education in D.C.

“I share the public’s frustration with the lack of transparency in the development of school budgets,” Grosso said. “The policy changes included in this report will force DCPS and the mayor to explain their math when devising future budgets. With that information, not only can the Committee, the Council, and the public perform greater oversight, but the city can begin to grapple with the true cost of educating our students as it examines additional reforms to our public education system.” 

Policy Recommendations and Legislative Change Highlights:

  • Greater accountability in the formulation of D.C. Public Schools’ budget: Legislative language in the budget requires DCPS to explain the cost that central office attributes to supporting each student, requires the mayor to report how the base of the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) is calculated each year before the budget is formulated, and ensures accuracy in enrollment projections for budgetary purposes.
  • Greater transparency in the expenditure of at-risk dollars: By October 1, 2018, D.C. Public Schools must report to the Committee on Education how it will add an accounting line item to central office and school budgets allowing for more detailed tracking of funds intended for students at-risk for academic failure.
  • Study transportation barriers that hinder school attendance: Requires the Deputy Mayor for Education to collaborate with the District Department of Transportation to analyze student transportation times, options, and routes for chronically absent students.

“The budget the Committee has passed also creates a positive school environment that values a student’s presence and strives to meet the non-academic needs of our most vulnerable students,” said Grosso. “By addressing these issues, we can begin to close the achievement gap and get students on track to graduate ready for college, career, and life."

Investment Highlights:

  • Prioritizes students’ right to learn by reducing the use of exclusionary discipline: $4.4 million to fund the Student Fair Access to School Act to protect students’ right to an education, close the achievement gap, and foster positive school climates. This includes:
    • An increase of $450,000 for a total investment of nearly $1 million for Restorative Justice programs, which provide an alternative to outdated discipline methods.
    • An increase in the Universal Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) for students at-risk of academic failure.
    • Establishing the School Safety and Positive Climate Fund to support schools in implementing strategies to reduce suspensions and expulsions and facilitate training and technical assistance in positive behavioral interventions.
  • Improves educational outcomes by meeting students’ non-academic needs: An increase of $1.4 million for a total investment of nearly $3 million to expand community schools, which set students up for academic success by addressing their academic, health, and social needs through community partnerships.
  • Increases access to multilingual education in the District: $367,000 to establish the Office of Multilingual Education in OSSE, with dedicated personnel whose mission is to increase cross-sector access to high-quality multilingual education across the city.
  • Creates a world-class central library: $1 million for opening day collections at the newly-modernized Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, set to re-open in 2020.
  • Preserves our local history for future generations: $500,000 for the D.C. Oral History project, a collaboration of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., Humanities DC, and the D.C. Public Library, over the next four years.
  • Provides resources to combat residency fraud: Provides one additional full-time equivalent to the proposed three FTEs and $300,000 for OSSE to aid its mission of investigating and reporting residency fraud in D.C. schools.
  • Expands equitable, high-quality out-of-school learning opportunities: Increased investment of $652,000 for OST grants with redirection of defunct tax donation line and transfers from the Committees on Labor & Workforce Development and Business & Economic Development. Total Education investment: $13.6 million.
  • Supports services and housing for youth experiencing homelessness: The Education Committee transferred $300,000 to the Human Services Committee for wrap-around services at the 24-hour drop-in center and for shelter and housing for homeless youth.

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Council passes Grosso’s bill to transform discipline in D.C. schools

For Immediate Release:
May 1, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Council unanimously passes Grosso’s bill to transform discipline in D.C. schools

Washington, D.C. – In a unanimous vote, the Council of the District of Columbia today passed legislation authored by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) that limits the use of exclusionary discipline in D.C. traditional public and public charter schools.

“The Student Fair Access to School Act is transformational—it breaks the traditional model of school discipline which pushes students out of school and, too often, into the courts,” said Grosso of the legislation, one of the most expansive and comprehensive school discipline reform laws in the country. “This shifting mindset will result in students being better prepared to succeed academically and safer school environments for all.”

The Student Fair Access to School Amendment Act of 2018 limits out-of-school suspension of students in kindergarten through eighth grade to serious safety incidents and bans its utilization in high school for minor offenses. If exclusion becomes necessary, the bill protects a child’s right to an education while they are off premises and requires a plan for the student to successfully return to the classroom.

“Suspensions and expulsions are contributing to the achievement gap in our schools,” Grosso said. “For our students of color, our young girls, and our students who need additional educational supports, this is a civil rights bill.”

Last year, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) released data showing that Black students were eight times more likely to be suspended than White students, an increase over the previous year’s rate. Additionally, students with disabilities and at-risk students were two times and one-and-a-half times more likely to be suspended than their peers, respectively. The U.S. Department of Education recently released national data that mirrored these findings.

Grosso will now turn to providing funding for positive behavioral supports in schools which produce safer school climates and better learning conditions for all students.

“In addition to this legislation, I look forward to making the necessary investments in school-based mental and behavioral health supports and alternative discipline programs when the Committee on Education marks up the fiscal year 2019 budget later this week,” Grosso said.

 “The Student Fair Access to School Act is the result of over a year of work, which included input from students, parents, teachers, school leaders, student and family advocates, researchers, mental health practitioners, government agency heads, and my colleagues. I appreciate that time and input immensely and urge the mayor to join us in this effort on behalf of students by signing Fair Access into law.”

The passage of the legislation is the latest success in Councilmember Grosso’s work to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline since joining the Council in 2013. That year, Grosso secured language requiring data collection and reporting from each local education agency on their utilization of exclusionary discipline. The first law he passed when he became chairperson of the Committee on Education in 2015 banned the suspension or expulsion of pre-kindergarten students. He also included language in the School Attendance Clarification Amendment Act that ended the practice of suspending and expelling minors who were late to school or had an unexcused absence and has increased annual investments in alternative discipline programs, such as restorative justice, and community schools.


 

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on yesterday's rally outside the Wilson Building

For Immediate Release:
April 27, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on yesterday's rally outside the Wilson Building

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the rally held outside the Wilson Building on April 26, 2018:

“I am extremely alarmed by the disgusting anti-Semitic rhetoric used to attack both the Jewish Community and a Council colleague yesterday, right on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building. This type of hate speech must be immediately denounced and cannot be given a safe space to be heard in our city.

"This rally was organized by Joshua Lopez, who was appointed by the mayor to serve on the District of Columbia Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.When Mr. Lopez’s nomination came up for a vote this year, I joined the concerns raised by some of my colleagues about Mr. Lopez’s temperament and qualifications and ultimately voted against his appointment.  And now this. Mr. Lopez should personally apologize to Councilmember Elissa Silverman and resign his seat on the D.C. Housing Authority Board immediately.”

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Grosso applauds CFO’s willingness to engage on efforts to divest from Wells Fargo

For Immediate Release:
April 18, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso applauds CFO’s willingness to engage on efforts to divest from Wells Fargo

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt’s testimony regarding D.C.’s business relationship with Wells Fargo at today’s Committee on Finance and Revenue oversight hearing:

“I’m extremely excited that we are finally having a public conversation about the need to divest from Wells Fargo and pursue banking policies which reflect the District of Columbia’s values and prioritize our local communities’ needs. I appreciate the advocacy efforts of the D.C. ReInvest Coalition for their dogged support and testimony today to advance these efforts and spark this conversation.

“Every year the District spends $4 million to do business with Wells Fargo as its bank of record. Call it a transaction, call it an investment, either way we enrich Wells Fargo, which for years has engaged in highly questionable sales practices, and financed private prisons, anti-environment, and anti-indigenous projects.

“I want to thank CFO Jeffrey DeWitt for agreeing that we should reassess our relationship with Wells Fargo at the conclusion of the contract. I agree with him that choosing which among the five big bank ‘devils’ D.C. should bank with is difficult, but there are banks that are better than others. When assessing who we do business with, it is vital we take a look at the whole picture, including national trends and recent events, in deciding who is currently the best actor and the best fit for our city.

“I also agree that calling for divestment is simply not enough, and solutions must be studied to meet the District’s banking needs. I look forward to a meeting between advocates seeking divestment from Wells Fargo and the Chief Financial Officer, as well as the results of the study I funded through the FY2018 budget process to explore the feasibility of establishing a public bank in D.C.”


 

 

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Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on the passing of Paul Pascal

For Immediate Release:
April 10, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on the passing of Paul Pascal

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the passing of “the Mayor of the Market”, Paul Pascal:

“As a resident, Council staff, and now Councilmember, I had the great fortune and honor of getting to know Paul Pascal over the years, especially as I worked closely with him on legislation overhauling alcohol control regulations, and I was very saddened to learn of his passing yesterday.

“As a frequenter of the Union Market neighborhood for many decades, I appreciate the unique importance of this area for providing food-based wholesale and retail operations in our city. If not for Paul’s passion for his neighborhood and his fierce advocacy on behalf of the small and local businesses that contribute to its distinct character, the neighborhood would not be the flourishing success it is today.

“The mark he left on the District of Columbia is indelible. We should all strive to emulate his engagement in our own communities.”
 

 

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Council unanimously advances Grosso’s bill limiting exclusionary discipline

For Immediate Release:
April 10, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Council unanimously advances Grosso’s bill limiting exclusionary discipline

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, on the initial approval by the Council of the District of Columbia of his Student Fair Access to School Act, which aims to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline practices, including suspensions and expulsions. The Council voted unanimously today to advance the legislation to a final vote later this year:

“The full Council has taken the first step to protect every student’s right to an education, of which suspensions and expulsions deprive them. We know how negatively suspensions and expulsions affect the students pushed out of school—they are more likely to fail academically, to drop out, and to end up involved in the criminal justice system.

“One of my first acts as a Councilmember was to require that OSSE collect and report data on suspensions and expulsions.  The latest data demonstrates that Black students are nearly eight times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than White students. Students with disabilities are nearly twice as likely to receive at least one out-of-school suspension; at-risk students 1.5 times more likely. Moreover, we are seeing an increase in the use of disciplinary actions for subjective reasons. It is unacceptable and, if we seek to close the racial achievement gap, we must end it.

“The Student Fair Access to School Act limits out-of-school suspension of students in kindergarten through eighth grade to serious safety incidents and bans its utilization in high school for minor offenses. If exclusion becomes necessary, the bill protects a child’s right to an education while they are off premises and requires a plan for the student to successfully return to the classroom.

“This collaborative legislation is the result of over a year of work, which included input from students, parents, teachers, school leaders, student and family advocates, researchers, mental health practitioners, government agency heads, and my colleagues. I look forward to working with my colleagues before the final vote and working through the Council budget process to provide significant investment in school-based behavioral health supports for our students and other resources to help schools.”
 

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Grosso calls on MPD and USAO to suspend sex work-related arrests and prosecutions in the wake of website closures

For Immediate Release:
April 9, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso calls on MPD and USAO to suspend sex work-related arrests and prosecutions in the wake of website closures

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the government shutdown of websites that allowed sex workers to operate with a greater degree of safety than on the streets:

“The latest government attacks on online platforms used by sex workers are directly undermining the safety, health, and human rights of these individuals. I am deeply concerned as I read the reactions of D.C. residents who will be pushed into less safe situations on the streets where they will be subjected to more violence, have decreased ability to negotiate condom use, and encounter greater risk of arrest, making them less likely to contact authorities if they are attacked. In working with communities in D.C. over the past few years to develop better policy approaches to the issue of commercial sex, I have heard far too many personal stories of violence and harm as a result of the criminalized nature of the sex trade.

“Rather than work on the streets, sex workers have utilized a number of websites that allow them to better screen clients and negotiate safer interactions. Several of those websites closed in the past week following Congressional approval of a pair of bills, SESTA and FOSTA. This legislation is alleged to combat human trafficking, but there is little evidence that it will accomplish that noble goal. In fact, the two bills were opposed by the largest network in the country of organizations serving human trafficking survivors. Rather than help people who are being coerced into commercial sex, the effect of these website closures will be to push trafficking further underground. This also has the effect of harming innumerable people involved in the sex trade who are not being coerced but, by a complex combination of choice and circumstance, are seeking to earn money. The sweeping nature of the legislation also undermines the work of harm reduction organizations that work with these communities, thereby preventing the provision of critical services.

“Due to the great risk of violence faced by street-based sex workers, our government needs to take bold and urgent action. I call on Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham and U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu to temporarily suspend arrests and prosecutions of those involved in commercial sex unless the individual has caused violence or coercion. Instead, the Chief and U.S. Attorney, along with front-line officers and commanders, should meet with individuals trading sex with the goal of understanding the risks they face and what steps are necessary to build trust in order to prevent and respond to violence and coercion. I am happy to work with both MPD and USAO to facilitate such a meeting.

 “We must remember that there are human beings’ welfare and lives on the line. We have a responsibility as government officials to look out for those who our society and laws marginalize. We should be pursuing evidence-based solutions to stop coercion and help minors who are exploited, including by addressing the demand for housing, food, employment, rationale immigration laws, and respect for human rights.”

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Grosso opposes additional incentives for Amazon HQ2

For Immediate Release:
April 5, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso opposes additional incentives for Amazon HQ2

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the District of Columbia's bid for Amazon to establish their second headquarters in the city:

"In recent months, the District of Columbia has engaged in a bidding war to curry favor with Amazon, seeking to entice them to establish their second headquarters, HQ2, in the city. Advocates for aggressively pursuing the internet behemoth tout the jobs, tax revenue, and prestige that would accrue to the District should we be picked. I certainly understand those arguments and would welcome Amazon to join our strong business community. But, the current state of the chase makes me wonder: at what cost?

"One of the most troubling aspects of the hunt for Amazon has been the opaqueness with which D.C.'s bid has been developed. Our open government laws and local reporting have made D.C.'s offer partially public, though highly redacted. Most of what the public can see are pre-existing incentives available to most businesses seeking to set up shop in our city. One could reasonably presume that the large black boxes in the bid shield the Mayor's offer of millions of additional public dollars in incentives that would require approval from the D.C. Council. It is problematic, then, that such details have not been proactively shared with me and my colleagues.

"The secrecy shrouding the bid is frustrating but so are the implications providing such incentives has for our responsibility to meet our residents' needs. Every year during the budget process I hear warnings from the District's Chief Financial Officer or some of my colleagues that though the city is in a strong fiscal position we cannot always expect it to be that way. This argument is generally used to discourage additional investments in human services, affordable housing, and even education. I worry that draining city coffers to bring Amazon here would intensify the calls for restraint in the investments that directly impact our residents. And while there is no doubt that Amazon could increase the tax revenue which could be redirected into city services, history tells us that will not happen. I worked as a staffer for the Council's Committee on Economic Development when we began revitalization. We made that same promise back then and yet we consistently fall short of fulfilling it.

"Instead of attracting outside entities with untold resources, we could be boosting the District's local business community, one that includes a flourishing technology industry. These small tech startups could benefit from the same incentives as Amazon. Such an investment would be spread across the city, rather than a centrally located HQ, cultivate homegrown businesses, and promote competition. Stacking the deck in favor of one large player could have the exact opposite effect.

"The District of Columbia is a great city to live and work in, with new people and companies flocking here daily. It is attractive in its own right. Though the benefits of Amazon choosing D.C. for its new home are not in doubt, the benefit of bending over backward to lure it here–at the expense of our current residents and local businesses–is. That is why I cannot and will not support any additional incentives to bring Amazon's HQ2 to D.C."

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