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Statement of Julius W. Becton, Jr., Chief Executive Officer, District of Columbia Public Schools
Before the Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, on the DCPS Student Count
March 13, 1998




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Office of the Chief Executive Officer
415 12th Street, N.W., Suite 1209
Washington D.C. 20004-1994
202-724-4222, fax: 202-727-1516

Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me to testify bet ore the Subcommittee today. As you know, Mr. Richard Wenning, Director of the District of Columbia Public Schools' Office of Educational Accountability, is here with me and will testify y as well. Therefore, I will make some general remarks about the efforts we have made to ensure the accuracy of DCPS' student enrollment count and then Mr. Wenning will discuss the specific steps his office has taken toward that end.

First, let me say clearly that I recognize the importance of an accurate student count. Obviously, our student count directly affects our "per-pupil expenditure" rate, and this expenditure rate, and the comparable expenditure rates of other school district, are used by policy makers to evaluate what our funding needs are and whether we are using the funds we have appropriately.

As you have noted, the General Accounting Office evaluated the process for counting students used in the September 1996 1997 count (which, was prior to my arrival) and found that process to be "vulnerable to error." As a matter of fact, the GAO found the count to be unauditable, because of the process that was used.

We used the GAO report as the basis for changes that we made in this year's count. And, I should note, we produced an auditable count, and the Financial Authority recently hired an independent firm to audit that count. The audit is underway.

According to our fall 1997-1998 count, the official enrollment of DCPS is 77,111. According to our most recent figures, that total includes 33 students who are paying tuition as non-residents. We believe that there are additional nonresidents in the count, and recognize that this is a serious problem.

The Board of Trustee recently approved a new, stricter residency policy and I am hopeful that this new rule Will help us to identify non-residents in our schools and force them to pay tuition or remove them more quickly. I believe that Dr. MacLaury intends to discuss this rule in more detail so I will leave that to him.

I do want you to know that we intend to continue working to improve the process by which we count our students. I know that the GAO still believes our count is vulnerable to errors and, although we did agree with all of their most recent recent findings, we do share their view that there still is room for improvement. I hope you have had the opportunity to review our February 27 letter to GAO responding to their draft testimony, as it describes both the areas where we are in substantial agreement with GAO and the areas where we believe they may not have fully understood certain actions that were taken to improve the count and the impact of those actions.

We are aware that some school districts have a much more centralized student enrollment process. and we are considering the possibility of moving in that direction in DC. In addition, like so many of the information systems in the District of Columbia, DCPS' Student Information System is badly outdated. In its report, GAO described many of its shortcomings. We are planning to purchase a new Student Information System during this fiscal year. This new system will help us to lock-out potentially inaccurate information.

Finally, you asked for information about DC's compliance with the congressional requirement that per-pupil funding allocations for DCPS schools and public charter schools be established. As you may be aware, the law calls for this allocation to be developed by the City Council and the Mayor, in consultation with the schools.

It is my understanding that Councilman Kevin Chavous, who is the Chairman of the Council's Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation, has brought together a working group for the purpose of developing these allocations. Mr. Ed Stephenson, DCPS' Chief Financial Officer, and members of his staff, have been participating in this working group. I am certain that Councilman Chavous would be happy to update you on the status of his efforts in this area.

I will now turn to Mr. Wenning to provide you more detail on DCPS' response the 1997 GAO report, the process we used to conduct the 1997-1998 count, and his views on the most recent GAO analysis. After his remarks, I will of course be available to answer any quest ions you may have.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to testify.

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