“Charter schools are kind of like Snoop Dogg. Nobody ever thought he’d be mainstream. Now charter schools are mainstream. But we have to go back to selling mix tapes out of the back of a car.”
His is of course echoing the call to arms that CER’s founder and chief executive officer Jeanne Allen offered a few weeks ago in which she advanced the argument that the school reform movement has become complacent and stale. She was talking about change on a national level but she could have been referring to the situation right here in Washington, D.C.
I can even tell you the date that things started to go drastically downhill. It was March 20, 2015.
Please consider that we have a FOCUS engineered lawsuit regarding the fact that charters receive about $100 million a year less in funding than the traditional schools but no one really seems to care. In fact, if it wasn’t for the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools becoming a party to the legal action only two charters, Washington Latin PCS and Eagle Academy PCS would have joined the effort. This is exceptionally sad.
There was a concerted campaign in this budget cycle to raise the charter school facility allotment from $3,124 a pupil a year where it has stood for years to $3,250. It didn’t happen, but no one really seems to care.
Charter schools are desperate for permanent facilities and DCPS is holding about a dozen empty buildings. Is there an organized effort to have these spaces released so that they can be filled with kids learning in the classroom? Not at all. No one seems to care.
Meanwhile, we drive around town seeing the capital renovations to the traditional schools that seem to escape any type of budget cap. It appears these DCPS palaces are everywhere. Charters are severely limited in the amount of money they can borrow from private sources to acquire and renovate buildings, if they are even permitted to obtain a loan that must be paid back. But do we in our local movement even offer a whisper about this situation? No. No one seems to care.
It is not a surprise that charters have been frozen at teaching 44 percent of all public school students in the nation’s capital. We are fortunate, considering the efforts of DCPS Chancellor Kay Henderson to attract families, that this number is not lower. But stay tuned. It could go down. And then guess what? No one will seem to care.