D.C. Deputy Mayor for Education Jennie Niles announced yesterday the creation of the long anticipated Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force that will investigate ways in which DCPS and the charter sector can collaborate on improving public education in the nation’s capital.
The group poses several dangers for our local charter school movement.
First and foremost, the committee may try and prevent new or replicating charters from locating near traditional schools where they could draw students away from Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s system. Sure enough in the article about the Task Force by the Washington Post’s Allison Michael Chandler the reporter immediately brings up the controversy around Washington Global PCS. She writes:
“Washington Global, a charter middle school opening this school year with an international program, drew criticism for opening its doors near Jefferson Middle, a traditional school that is working to build a similar program.”
There are other fears about potential conclusions of this group. For instance, it could recommend, as Mayor Muriel Bowser has advocated, that charters be required to provide an admission preference to neighborhood children, thereby limiting school choice to those living in low income areas of the city as another task force determined. It could codify the position of Ms. Henderson that no other shuttered DCPS facilities be turned over to charters because DCPS is growing in enrollment. Finally, it could call for a cap on the number of charters as a way to decrease competition for students with the regular schools.
When I interviewed DC Public Charter School Board chairman Dr. Darren Woodruff recently he was looking forward to the work of the Task Force as a mean of spreading the high academic expectations of charters to all educational institutions across town. Let’s sincerely hope for the future of our kids that he is correct.
Perhaps Ms. Niles should include me as a member so that I can support the PCSB chair. I wouldn’t hold your breath on this one.