Muriel Bowser has been in office for almost a couple of years now, so I think it’s fair to ask a logical question. Just what does it mean under this Mayor for her to have control of our public schools? As someone who follows public policy regarding education closely this was an easy answer when it came to her predecessor.
Mr. Gray was an unashamed proponent of charter schools. He turned over at least a dozen shuttered DCPS facilities to these innovative institutions. Mr. Gray’s first Deputy Mayor for Education, De’Shawn Wright, completed the Illinois Facility Fund report that calculated in 2002 the number of quality public school seats that needed to be created in the nation’s capital so that every child could receive an education that would prepare them for college. The number was an astonishing 40,000. The next Deputy Mayor, Abigail Smith, released the equally groundbreaking Adequacy study which for the first time in the history of local school reform documented the illegal additional revenue that DCPS is receiving compared to charters outside of the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula. That number is a sickening 100 million dollars a year. The document came complete with remedies to fix the situation.
But this is not all. Mr. Gray solidified the per pupil facility fund for charter schools at $3,000, utilizing for the first time funding solely from the city. This freed up Congressional Three Sector Approach SOAR grant dollars for charters to allocate for other purposes. Also under his tenure, the common lottery was introduced and the annual school fair became an event equally promoting charters along with the traditional schools.
Today, the situation is much different. The recommendations of the Adequacy study sit gathering dust on a book shelf in the Wilson building and the FOCUS-coordinated funding inequity lawsuit never gets mentioned. Also covered in filth are the shuttered dilapidated DCPS facilities that are no longer being offered to charters. The per pupil facility fund is frozen at a level that leads to the sector teaching students in structures that pale in comparison to their regular school counterparts.
This Mayor has created the Cross Sector Collaboration Task Force. It has apparently been meeting for over a year and according to the chair of the Public Charter School Board the group has “really been focused on getting to know one another.”
Mayor Fenty fought hard to win control of the public schools from the D.C. Council. Perhaps it is time to simply give it back to the Board of Education. Mayor Bowser obviously has other priorities.