D.C. charter school funding equity lawsuit lives on another day

Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Michael Allison Chandler revealed that U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan refused to throw out the charter school funding inequity lawsuit brought against D.C. by the Association of Chartered Public Schools, Eagle Academy PCS, and Washington Latin PCS.  Washington Latin PCS agreed to be a party to the legal action when I served on the school’s board of directors.

Stephen Marcus, the attorney for the FOCUS coordinated lawsuit, according to Ms. Chandler, referred to the finding by the federal judge as a “favorable opinion.”

As you may recall, when we last discussed this issue former Attorney General Irvin Nathan had asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that the Mayor and D.C. Council had the authority to make spending decisions regarding DCPS, the school system it oversees.  There is only one problem with this argument.  The law states that all funding for both the traditional schools and charters must come through the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula.  It has been estimated that DCPS receives about $100 million a year more than charters get outside of this statute.

The new Attorney General Karl Racine and Mayor Muriel Bowser have not officially commented on the funding challenge by charters.

The Judge did, however, get part of the law wrong.  She ruled that the city had not violated the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause which designates acts by Congress the “law of the land.”  The UPSFF legislation originated with Congress and if this opinion was correct then the D.C. Council could have thrown out the federal law that first created charter schools in the nation’s capital as well as the Opportunity Scholarship Program written in part by U.S. House Speaker Boehner.  Perhaps Mr. Marcus should appeal this part of the decision.

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