District should settle charter school funding inequity lawsuit

Yesterday’s blog post generated some comments around my observation that the “FOCUS-coordinated funding inequity lawsuit never gets mentioned.”  It turns out that there currently is much discussion around this legal action. My understanding is that charter schools have been updated regarding progress. The lead attorney in the case tells me that it will take until at least March, 2017 and in all likelihood beyond this period.

This is of course, totally unacceptable.  The complaint was brought in 2014.  The law in this case is simple and straightforward.  The School Reform Act that authorized the creation of charter schools in the District as passed by the U.S. Congress established that a “uniform formula will be used to provide operating budgets on the basis of enrollment for the school system as a whole and for individual public charter schools.”

But from the beginning DCPS has received services and dollars to which charter schools have not had access, totaling over $770 million at the time that the legal challenge began.  It amounts to, according to the suit, “$14 million to nearly $80 million each year from 2008 through 2012 equating to $2,150 for each pupil per year that DCPS has received that charters have not.”  The lawsuit deals with operating funds and does not touch the additional great unfairness in the money the traditional schools are provided for facilities to which charters do not have access.

Enough is enough.  Instead of arguing this matter in the courts, Mayor Bowser’s administration should utilize the Cross Sector Collaboration Task Force or some other avenue to settle this matter once and for all.  The time is right.  We have in Deputy Mayor for Education Jennie Niles someone who understands this issue first-hand as the founder of E.L. Haynes PCS.  Ms. Bowser has shown great leadership when it has come to attempting to reduce homelessness and increasing the quantity of affordable housing.  There is a great opportunity here to extend her influence to a matter that will directly impact the well-being of our city’s children.

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