Yesterday the D.C. Council passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Support Act. Missing in the legislation was an increase in the charter school per pupil facility allotment from the current $3,124 to $3,250, an amount sought by schools, parents, students, FOCUS, the Association of Chartered Public Schools, and Democrats for Education Reform. From the FOCUS press release:
“Since 2008, facilities funding has increased only $16 per student, failing to keep pace with both inflation and the ever-rising cost of construction. Washington, DC public charter schools, per student, receive about $6,558 dollars less each year than their traditional public school counterparts.”
The recommended change in the formula would have amounted to a small 2.2 percent adjustment to the formula. The facility allotment has gone up by a minuscule $16 per student since Mayor Fenty was in office in 2008. Commented DER president Catharine Bellinger:
“DFER DC fought hard for a modest increase of 2.2% – a total of $2.8 million – for charter school facilities this budget cycle. But, despite this broad-based advocacy and more than 200 parent and grandparent phone calls to Council offices calling for right-sizing the funding level, city leaders still failed to invest in the 45% of the District’s public school students who attend public charter schools.”
I understand the outrage, I really do. Keeping the facility allotment flat means that charters will have an almost impossible challenge in obtaining and renovating permanent homes in the red hot Washington, D.C. commercial real estate market. Add to this issue the FOCUS-coordinated funding inequity lawsuit that a judge sent to arbitration only to find that the city refused to arbitrate, and it appears that the 39,000 children in charters are really second or third class citizens. But perhaps the charter movement has only itself to blame.
In this era of cooperation and collaboration the leaders of our sector have gone out of their way to work with Mayor Bowser, Deputy Mayor for Education Niles, D.C. Council education committee chairman Gosso, and DCPS Chancellor Henderson. But what we are talking about here is the future lives of our children. The stakes could not be higher. My kids are grown but if my offspring were young they would be in a charter. Then, because this funding directly determines the quality of teaching taking place in the classroom, I would fight as if my continued existence depended on these dollars.
Perhaps its time to take a different course?