Richard Whitmire misses the point when it comes to charter and DCPS cooperation

Last weekend Richard Whitmire, an author and senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, wrote a piece in the Washington Post in which he listed the 10 reasons that charters and traditional schools in the nation’s capital seem to get along compared to the situations regarding public school choice in places like Los Angeles and Boston.  Please allow me to save you time by informing you that you need not bother to read his contributing factors to peace between the two sectors.  I’ll tell you exactly what is going on here.  Charters have given up.

DCPS for years has been erecting glass enclosed monuments to underutilized classrooms through its school modernization program.  Meanwhile, charters scramble for permanent facilities, seemingly joyful when rarely handed a dilapidated shuttered regular school that needs millions of dollars of renovation work in money that must be coerced from a bank.  Heaven forbid that the new site is anywhere near a traditional school.  Then charters are accused of cannibalizing children. If there is traffic around the site, which there always is, the neighbors must somehow be placated with assurances that a structure filled with children and adults will bring no additional congestion to the area.

Charters do what they do while hiring their own staff, buying their own textbooks, managing their own buildings, and cleaning up after the kids leave for the day.  For this privilege they are provided with about a million less per year in revenue compared to DCPS.  There is a FOCUS coordinated lawsuit in the courts around this issue.  Have you heard it mentioned in the last couple of years?  Not one word from our political leaders.

Recent PARCC scores show that about 25 percent of our children are ready for college.  At the same time, most rational people attribute the improvement of our public schools to the introduction of competition enjoined through the charter movement.  But is there a call to place reform in high gear by bringing more national charter management organizations to town to finally close the academic achievement gap?  Nope.  The Public Charter School Board and Deputy Mayor for Education feel that 44 percent of all kids in charters is just fine.  Perhaps they are uncomfortable that the number is even this great.

Today, the name of the game is collaboration.  But haven’t we been trying this for 20 years?  Charter heads of school must begin their day at 4 a.m. and continue to work until they drop, but are forbidden to talk at all about the indignity of not being treated as equal to their DCPS peers.  It as if they are being told that you dare not discuss facilities and funding.  Just do your job, act fortunate that you are able to operate at all, and stand by as we tell you how you will help the traditional schools perform at your level.

It is just one happy family out there.



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