Tonight is the monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board and therefore last week as is the custom I received an email containing the agenda. When I reviewed it I was confused in that I did not see the anticipated vote on the expansion request of Basis PCS. I then contacted the PCSB office to ask about the omission.
As you recall at the October session representatives from Basis had asked to grow by an astonishing 936 students in grades Kindergarten through the fourth grade. The school currently serves 700 children in grades five through twelve. However, during the discussion regarding the charter amendment PCSB board member Steve Bumbaugh made the following observation:
“He revealed that for the last three weeks he had been studying the student enrollment data at the charter and he frankly found the numbers to be ‘concerning.’ For example, he discovered that across the charter sector in D.C., 79 percent of students are economically disadvantaged but at Basis this number is 17 percent. Again, he observed, overall for charters 15 percent of pupils are classified as Special Education and at Basis this number is less than five percent. Moreover, at Basis less than 10 percent of kids are found to be At Risk while for charters that statistic is 51 percent. Finally, Mr. Bumbaugh explained that charters are characterized by student populations that include 7 percent English Language Learners while at Basis this percentile is zero.”
In reaction to this information I wrote that “in other words, the fear that I expressed years ago that Basis would create a school in the nation’s capital that ignored the original charter bargain to take care of those students often left behind by the traditional schools has become a reality.”
It appeared to me that the amendment request was consistent with the explicit Basis strategy of opening charter schools utilizing public money to provide essentially a private school education in localities where the law allowed it to execute this plan. Where no charter school law exists the organization’s tactic is to replicate by offering parents the traditional private school model. It appears that in response to my comments and those of Mr. Bumbaugh the charter changed its mind regarding the request to add another campus and withdrew its application.
This is not the first time that a request by Basis DC to augment its student body did not go as planned. After the school opened here in 2013 it asked the charter board to increase its enrollment ceiling by 35 students in order to make loan and rent payments related to its Eighth Street facility. The PCSB turned down the move citing the large number of kids, 43 out of 443, that had already left the school. Seven of those pupils were classified as special education students.