Nearly a month into her first term, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser faces an important challenge regarding her administration’s priorities. The District reported a $204 million surplus this past fiscal year, giving Bowser a chance to alter the city’s budget moving forward.
Due to an expected spending shortfall of more than $80 million in the mayor’s budget this year, members of the D.C. Council urged against dipping into the surplus to cover potential shortfalls. But while financial issues confront Bowser, she should not forget the priorities she laid out during her mayoral campaign.
Education, especially early childhood education and the improvement of middle schools, was one of Bowser’s primary priorities. As a councilmember, Bowser continually emphasized that every child in every neighborhood should have a quality middle school to attend — an ambitious plan that many have deemed unrealistic, saying Bowser does not have any specifics regarding execution.
However, this year’s above-average surplus may enable the mayor to plan ahead in terms of implementing improvements to the District’s education. While the District’s high schools rank in the upper echelon compared to other U.S. states, Bowser rightfully pointed to the chronic issues with Washington, D.C.’s K-8 public schools as a major problem facing the city. Although a budget surplus is not the only necessary ingredient in improving a city’s public school system, it will allow Bowser to begin addressing the District’s urgent problem.
D.C. has struggled in the past to maintain its public education system, often citing a lack of funds for cutting special needs and community outreach programs. It is up to Mayor Bowser to use the opportunity afforded by such a surplus to ensure that the future of the D.C. public school system remains stable for the foreseeable future.