The Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s audited enrollment count for this year demonstrated that 38,905 students now attend charters, an increase of 3.2 percent from the 2014 to 2015 term. The traditional school system also experienced growth in its student body, with 1.9 percent more kids signed up for a total of 48,439. This is the seventh consecutive year that D.C. public schools have experienced a jump in enrollment.
It is also the fourth year in a row that charter school enrollment as a percentage of all children attending public schools in Washington D.C. has remained flat. This is a highly disturbing trend, especially in light of a 2006 study produced by Fight for Children that predicted that charters would reach the 51 percent mark by 2014.
Obviously, the growth of charters has not kept up with demand, especially in the face of the DC Public Charter School Board’s history of closing 55 campuses at the low end of the quality scale. A recent Bellwether Education Partners report states that there are 22,000 kids on charter school wait-lists. 22,000! Many of the best charter schools in the city have lines of those trying to get in of over 1,000 pupils.
So what is going on here? Perhaps the goal is to restrict expansion of our local charter school movement. I recall the commentary that came out just about a year ago by John “Skip” McKoy, the past chair of the Public Charter School Board, and Scott Pearson, PCSB executive director, which asserted that “the balance we have, with a thriving public charter sector and strong traditional schools, is about right.”
There is a bromide that says, “if you believe in something it will eventually become true.” Well, here in the nation’s capital, often described as this country’s bedrock of public education reform, when it comes to the growth of our charter school sector we have officially reached stasis.