top of page
  • Jessie Moss

Walls Budget is Deficient $235,210, Leading to Possible Staff Cuts

Productions like last year’s Cinderella may become impossible with the planned budget cuts / Via Penguin Nation

Recently, the Walls theater department has been hard at work on the musical “Rent.” Sadly, the highly-anticipated production may mark the end of an era for Walls’ performing arts programs.

Mayor Muriel Bowser recently proposed a budget increase for Walls and other DCPS schools for the 2024-2025 school year. But Bowser’s proposal will hinder Walls more than it will help.

According to Student Government Association president Hugo Rosen (‘24), the proposal is “nominally raising the budget, but we’re losing federal emergency funding that we’ve had for the last few years and it doesn’t account for inflation.” As a result, schools across DC will see budget cuts, Walls to the tune of $235,210.

Bowser’s proposal, once finalized, will head to the DC Council. DCPS acknowledges that these cuts would mean the loss of staffing positions across the district.

The Local School Advisory Team (LSAT) worked with Principal Sylvia Isaac to determine, based on class enrollment figures, which programs were ‘least essential.’ Per the minutes from February’s LSAT meeting, the performing arts and language departments have the fewest students for their number of teachers.

As a result, if the budget cuts pass, the tentative likely outcome is the termination of a language track at Walls, as well as the loss of theater teacher Lea Zaslavsky — and with her the end of the Walls theater program. Other DCPS schools could be losing up to ten teachers. The cuts will also overturn legislation passed based on the Sunrise Hub’s climate advocacy.

“We can’t cut it from menial expenses like building maintenance or lunches,” Rosen, a representative for the LSAT, explained. “Sports are funded by the Home and School Association while menial expenses and teacher salaries are funded by DCPS, so that wasn’t an option. The LSAT looked at this and decided to cut two teaching positions.”

“The problem with this is that DC passed a law a few years ago called the “Schools First in Budgeting” Act and that says that when crafting the budget, DC has to put education f irst and give schools what they need to function,” Rosen explained. “DCPS is arguing that they’re complying with this law because they’re cutting ‘non-essential’ teachers. We think they’re breaking their own law because a theater department and an entire language department are essential to the school.”

“I think it really shows that the mayor and DCPS as a whole do not care about extracurriculars,” said Rowan King (‘25). “They have no respect for the mental health of the students ... It restricts students from learning what they could learn and what they’re passionate about.”

For King and others, the loss of Ms. Z and the theater program will be a devastating blow to self-expression.

“Walls also has more language departments than many other schools,” King explained. “So the impact on them will also be larger. We’re actually the privileged ones in this scenario.”

“There are essentially two efforts going on at Walls to combat this: the student effort and the parent effort,” said Rosen, who is also the student representative on the LSAT. “The parents are trying to testify at DCPS budget hearings and lobby their local Council members.” Rosen continued, “A lot of students care individually about the effects that losing a drama and a language teacher will have on the school and I’m working with a few other students to organize those different perspectives into one coherent voice.” With a few other students, Rosen has worked to circulate a petition addressed to the DC Council demanding a fairer budget.

These implications are not unique to Walls. “I started off wanting to only prioritize Walls but then I realized this is a whole DCPS-wide issue,” Rosen said.

“Losing any teachers, especially at a school this small, will be bad for our culture,” Rosen concluded. “The DC budget is big. They can take the money out of something else to fund DCPS. That’s perfectly possible.”

Dozens of students have already signed up to testify against the budget cuts. Rosen encourages more students to testify, sign petitions, and join the fight to protect the theater and language departments, as well as to advocate for other schools for whom these cuts will be similarly devastating.

"A lot of people have heard these rumors… and it feels final, it feels irreversible,” Rosen concluded. “It really isn’t–if we get enough students to speak up.”

King reinforced this message, saying, “We need all the help we can get.”

Reach out to Rosen, Anna Mayer (‘25), or the Sunrise Hub for more information on how to testify and fight these budget cuts.


Top Stories

bottom of page