Mayor Bowser builds on funding inequity for D.C. charter schools

Last Friday D.C. Mayor Bowser announced that beginning with the 2017-2018 school year an additional $6.2 in supplemental dollars will be provided for DCPS in an effort to improve the offerings in the traditional middle schools and high schools.  According to Ms. Bowser:

“These investments will transform the middle and high school experience for students throughout DC, and ensure that we are setting more students up for success,” said Mayor Bowser. “In Washington, DC, we value public education, and we know that investments in our schools are really investments in the future of our community. By adding more extracurriculars, more STEM classes, and additional college and career support, we will be able to engage more students and keep them on track to succeed beyond high school.”

The only problem is that this money will not “transform the middle and high school experience for students throughout DC” because once again charter schools are left out of the sharing of the wealth.  Moves such as this are why there is currently an unresolved lawsuit brought by the DC Association of Chartered Public School, Eagle Academy PCS, and Washington Latin PCS that was engineered by FOCUS against the city regarding inequitable funding for DCPS compared to charter schools.  By law, Ms. Bowser and the Council cannot simply add resources to the schools they control without doing the same for charters through the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula.

The situation is now completely out of control.  Before this latest gift by the Mayor, and at the time the lawsuit was brought, FOCUS estimates “this illegal under funding has amounted to $770 million from 2008 to 2015, which amounts to $1600 – $2600 per student every year for the last seven years.”

The Washington Post’s Alejandra Matos rubs it in by explaining what new DCPS chancellor Wilson aims to do with the cash:

“The school system plans to increase extracurricular activities in middle schools to give every student the option to participate in at least one program outside the regular school day. The new programs will include coding clubs, lacrosse, wrestling, rugby, archery, and hockey, as well as wheelchair track and field and basketball for students with disabilities.

DCPS plans to purchase 750 new computers and add engineering and computer science electives to its middle schools. All DCPS middle schools also plan to offer algebra in the 2017-18 school year.

For high schools, DCPS will hire college-and-career coordinators to help students create a personal plan for their future after graduation. It also plans to put more resources into its four alternative high schools, which enroll students who once dropped out or are far behind in traditional school.”

According to the Post reporter, “The proposal would be in addition to at least $25 million in spending growth in the next fiscal year to cover enrollment increases and other costs, school officials say. The current year’s spending plan totals $910 million.”

This is quite different from the situation I learned about last summer while visiting Denver, Colorado.  In this city, thanks to a Denver Public Schools and Charter Schools Collaboration Compact, the two sectors share revenue on an equitable basis.  From the agreement:

“[District schools] commit to ensuring equitable resources for charter schools. This includes not only per pupil revenue, but, to the greatest extent possible, an equitable share of all other district resources including Title funds, existing bond funds, application opportunities for future bond funds, mill levy funds, curriculum and materials purchased with federal funds, and grants for programs that could benefit charters. This would also include an opportunity for the charter schools to play a meaningful role in shaping expenditures of funds made on their behalf.”

Mr. Wilson spent more than a decade as a leader in Denver Public Schools.  Perhaps he will be the one to recognize the blatant cruelty of what public school financing has become in the nation’s capital.

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