Testimony of Ryllie Danylko, Senior Policy Analyst, before DME, OSSE, and DCPS Committee of the Whole

April 4, 2024
Testimony
Person Testifying: Ryllie Danylko
Title: Senior Policy Analyst, DC Action
Testimony Heard By: DME, OSSE, and DCPS Committee of the Whole
Type of Hearing: Budget Hearing

Hello Chairman Mendelson, council members, and staff of the Committee of the Whole. Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee today by providing testimony regarding the FY25 budgets of the Deputy Mayor for Education and District of Columbia Public Schools. My name is Ryllie Danylko, and I am the senior policy analyst for out-of-school time (OST) at DC Action. DC Action uses research, data, coalition building, advocacy, and a racial equity lens to break down barriers that stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential. We are also the home of the DC Out-of-School-Time Coalition, which advocates for equitable access to OST programs for all youth and families in the District. 

In FY25, the Council must ensure that funding for OST is held harmless and that afterschool programs that provide free programming at DCPS schools are not saddled with security costs. Anything less than these would amount to a cut to opportunities that youth and families rely on for not just aftercare, but mentorship, social and emotional support, creative outlets, life skills, and academic enrichment – to name just a few of the proven benefits of OST. 

From what we understand so far about the mayor’s proposed budget for the OST Office of the DME, the grant budget for afterschool and summer programs would remain stable. We appreciate the mayor proposing an OST budget that locally replaces two FY24 transfers the OST Office received from OSSE: a $3.4 million transfer of expiring federal relief funding and an additional $3.4 million transferred mid-year to make up for cuts to the Federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers OST grants run through OSSE. We are asking the DC Council to ensure all of these funds now proposed in the Mayor’s budget are protected in the final Council proposal and made recurring so that youth and families can rely on stable afterschool and summer programs year after year.

The Committee should also take note that an ideal OST grant budget should account for increased programming costs due to inflation, as well as growing indirect costs. The Nonprofit Fair Compensation Act allows nonprofits to claim a minimum 10% indirect cost rate as supplemental to their direct costs – in our estimate, fully funding indirect cost rates in OST grants would bring the Office’s total budget closer to $33 million. In a budget year defined by difficult decisions, keeping OST funding steady is the priority but adjusting upward  for inflation and indirect costs would undoubtedly benefit the District’s youth, families, and program service providers.

What we still don’t know, and hope the Council will glean from agency leaders in the coming days, is whether or not nonprofit, community-based organizations who provide free afterschool programs to DCPS schools will be responsible for paying the cost of providing security. This change would be a major departure from a previously standing agreement that nonprofits that provide free afterschool programs to DCPS families would have access to security guards to keep students and staff safe. If DCPS decides to make this change, many OST providers will be forced to eliminate seats in their programs. 

In my remaining time, I would like to ask the Committee to look 10 years into the future. 2035 is the deadline that the Universal Out of School Time Amendment Act has set for the District to reach universal access. We must not only make sure this legislation is enacted –starting with scheduling a public hearing– but also start planning now to raise new revenue to fund this critical investment, and make sure this funding reaches those who need it most first. Especially youth in Wards 7 and 8, where just 33% of young people are currently participating in subsidized OST programs, compared to around 40% in the District as a whole. Our city’s community-based organizations are prepared to lead this expansion; they just need the funding to do so. In a recent survey DC Action conducted of OST programs, 80% said that they could double the number of youth they served in just one to two years, and the remaining respondents said they could do so in 3 to 4 years. And yet, the majority of organizations reported that when they apply for public funding they do not receive the full amount applied for. 

In this budget and those that follow, let’s ensure that afterschool and summer programs can not only continue to serve the youth already benefiting from these opportunities, but also extend their reach to those who are missing out.

Following are more detailed recommendations:

  • Protect OST from funding cuts, adjust for inflation, and replace federal relief funds with local dollars.

We would like to thank Mayor Bowser and her team for proposing $30.7 million for the OST Office in FY25, including holding the OST Office’s grant funding harmless from FY24 levels through a $6.8 million one-time enhancement. This enhancement would sustain two FY24 mid-year transfers from OSSE, including ESSER dollars, that have helped program providers maintain and expand their programming capacity this year. We are asking the DC Council to ensure all of these funds  are protected in the final budget and made recurring investments so that youth and families can rely on stable afterschool and summer programs year after year.

The Committee should also take note that the OST grant budget should account for increased programming costs due to inflation, as well as growing indirect costs. The Nonprofit Fair Compensation Act allows nonprofits to claim a minimum 10% indirect cost rate as supplemental to their direct costs – fully funding indirect cost rates in OST grants would bring the total budget to $33 million.

Protecting the full FY24 OST grant budget (including Learn24 school year, summer, and year-round grants and My Afterschool DC grants) – plus adjusting upward for inflation – will ensure that the 15,000+ youth who participate in Learn24-funded programs can continue to receive the diverse benefits of afterschool and summer programs.

It is crucial that the OST Office uses these funds to provide equitable and flexible funding to community-based organizations, including grant requirements for dosage that reflect the needs of DC’s young people. Grant awards must reflect the true costs of providing programming, and grantees must be allowed to use the funds to meet the needs of the youth and families they serve, with the understanding that this may look different depending on program size, location, and type.

Last year, Learn24 made changes to the program dosage requirements, seemingly without prior engagement with the nonprofit organizations who rely on this funding to serve youth. As a result of this unexpected change, many organizations scrambled to redesign their programs to meet the increased dosage requirements and some were forced to close program sites to ramp up program dosage at other sites, because the increased requirements did not always come with increased funding. While Learn24 says it made this decision based on national best practices for OST, many grantees felt it did not take into account the unique needs of DC youth and families or local best practices for OST. The OST Coalition has shared these concerns with the Learn24 office over the past year, and we were hopeful when Learn24 reached out to grantees and the coalition for feedback and discussions on FY25 grant requirements. We are pleased that Learn24 has already committed to acting on some of our recommendations to address some grantee concerns, including allowing grantees to track youth participation beginning before October 1, simplifying the continuation application, and allowing some dosage adjustments for organizations in FY25.

Learn24 shared that for FY25, grantees may be able to request a program dosage adjustment if they think they are unable to meet the requirements in the RFA, which will be the same as the FY24 requirements. They also shared they plan to engage with grantees to determine the criteria that grantees must meet for their request to be approved. The allowance for dosage adjustment requests is a step in the right direction, and may work as a short term solution to grantee concerns. However, the office must not just engage with grantees about whether maintaining the increased dosage minimums is actually meeting the needs of DC youth and families, but act on what they share in future grant applications. This is especially important for organizations that serve high school students, who are juggling multiple responsibilities, commitments, and activities that can make it difficult for organizations to meet the minimums.

  • Ensure DCPS continues to absorb costs of security in school buildings after school so OST partners are not saddled with costs which can limit spending for youth programming. 

It came to light during the performance oversight hearings that DCPS is once again considering shifting the costs for providing security at afterschool programs that are based at DCPS schools and provided by community-based organizations (CBOs) onto the partners. DCPS has considered making this change in previous years, but has continued to cover these costs in response to opposition. This change would be a major departure from a previously standing agreement that nonprofits that provide free or low-cost afterschool programs to DCPS families would have access to security guards to keep students and staff safe.

If DCPS decides to make this change, many OST providers will be forced to eliminate seats in their programs. To illustrate the financial impact on nonprofit organizations, note that a security guard costs an average of $45 an hour. If a guard is in a school from 4:30pm to 6:30pm on all 180 school days, this brings the cost to over $16,000 per site. Many organizations have programming in multiple sites, ballooning security costs to close to $100,000 for some nonprofits. These costs are prohibitively expensive for nonprofit organizations that already operate with tight budgets. School systems are smart to invest in OST as a way to support improved classroom engagement and school attendance, and DCPS should at a minimum cover required security costs for OST programs.

  • Raise new revenue for future years to enable implementation of the Universal OST Amendment Act of 2023, which aims to close the gap in program access by 2035.

OST is important and transformative, but subsidized programs in DC are currently only serving around 40% of our young people. In Wards 7 and 8, where the service gap is most acute, only 33% of youth who live in these wards participate in afterschool programs and only 35% in summer programs. The Universal OST provides a legislative blueprint for scaling up programming in an equitable way, prioritizing youth with the greatest needs and those who have faced the most barriers to OST. To do so, the District will need to find and implement new sources of local revenue to dramatically increase the funding for community-based programs to expand their reach. I urge the Council to lay the groundwork for scaling up to Universal OST opportunities by funding a study of how a business activity tax or a progressive property or land tax model could be used to fund OST programming in out-years.

  • Pass a budget that supports all young people by raising revenue to reverse harmful cuts in the Mayor’s proposed FY25 budget

As an out-of-school-time provider, we appreciate how difficult it is to operate on thin margins and empathize with the difficulty of this year’s tight budget. As Council Chairman, I urge you to undo the harm to youth and family programming in the Mayor’s budget by identifying existing or raising new revenue this year to restore stable funding for early education and the Pay Equity Fund, housing, nutrition, and behavioral health services cut in the Mayor’s budget. All of these investments work together to support the youth we serve to grow into happy, healthy, thriving adults.  

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I look forward to answering any questions during the hearing and in the coming weeks before the budget is finalized.