Education Secretary Arne Duncan is new to Washington, but he's wasted no time perpetuating the canard that the underachieving District school system is flush with cash.Meanwhile, when most kids finish eighth grade, they get to go to high school. But not the kids scheduled to attend the new Woodson High in Northeast Washington, DC. Woodson is still under construction as 9th graders this year have been crowded 40 to a classroom into the Ronald H. Brown Middle School. Kids are angry, and they are not throwing their shoes--they are throwing their 20 pound dopey textbooks:
"D.C. has had more money than God for a long time, but the outcomes are still disastrous," Duncan said in a March 4 visit with Post editors and reporters.
But a recent study shows that D.C., ranked against the 50 states, is 13th in per-pupil expenditures ($11,193), placing it behind Vermont, Wyoming, New Jersey, New York, Maine, Rhode Island, Alaska, Connecticut, Montana, Massachusetts, Delaware and Pennsylvania. The January study by EPE Research Center, a division of the nonprofit that publishes Education Week, used Department of Education data from 2005-06 (the latest year available) and adjusted for regional cost differences. It found the national average was $9,963.
Closer to home, a 2007 study by school budget watchdog Mary Levy concluded that DCPS spent almost $4,000 less per pupil than Alexandria, $3,500 less than Arlington County, and about $1,500 more than Fairfax County.
This was news to Duncan. . . .
Woodson Academy teacher William Pow had just finished writing on the blackboard one January afternoon, he said, when he turned to face his algebra class and saw the textbook "Mathematics in Life" hurtling toward his head.
He ducked, he said, but it caught him in the neck and shoulder. His colleagues at Woodson have not been as lucky. English teacher Randy Brown said he was hit just above the left ear by a book thrown by a student last month. He was treated for a concussion and said he has since suffered from headaches and nausea.. . . .. . . .
Teachers said crowding at the school has also fueled behavior problems. February attendance records show that enrollment in math and English classes at the academy averages 35 students, exceeding the contract-established limit of 25. (That cap can be broken for space or staff shortage reasons.) Slade said the records are not correct.
"They're smart. They're not dumb kids. But they're angry because they are 40 to a class, which is totally disrespectful to them," said Brown, a fiftyish, soft-spoken former sculptor whose master's thesis at Howard University was on Virginia Woolf's novel "The Waves." This is his first year in D.C. schools, and he acknowledges that establishing control in his classroom has been a struggle.. . . .