Lack of growth of D.C. charters could end sector

As more and more young families move into the District of Columbia the focus on the quality of the public schools will sharpen even greater than in the past.  Couples will find the inability to gain seats for their children in high performing charters so frustrating that it may drive them to relocate to the suburbs.  Even more disappointing to these residents may be the fact that even if an excellent charter school is located near their homes their kids may not get admitted because these are institutions of choice.

Simultaneously, Chancellor Kaya Henderson has been working nonstop on enhancing her brand.  All of these factors: the lack of availability of quality seats, the fact that charters are choice schools, and the significant improvement in the traditional schools, may shift public opinion and then public policy away from the alternative sector that now educates almost 39,000 pupils in 62 schools on 102 campuses.

Add to these pressures the severe lack of permanent facilities, the $100 million a year that the DCPS gets to which charters do not have access, and a regulatory body that only approves new  charters that will be Tier 1 on Day 1, and we have a situation in which our locality may decide that the whole charter experiment is just not worth all the effort.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not calling for the Public Charter School Board to turn their attention away from superior academic performance of their portfolio.  But at the 20 year mark of school reform I would have expected to be much further ahead.

By now the facility issue should have been solved, the revenue equity issue fixed, and a sufficient number of charters in operation so that their student bodies approximate those of neighborhood schools.

It is time to kick-start our local movement.


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