Spike in applications to open new D.C. charter schools

Yesterday, the D.C. Public Charter School Board announced that it has accepted applications for eight new schools to open in the 2018-to-2019 term.  It has been many years since the board has received this many requests at one time.  For example,  during the last cycle one request was received.  As stated by the board’s press release, the applications include “two elementary schools, two middle schools, a high school, two adult schools and a hybrid high school and adult school.”  One interesting note is that the paperwork proposing the creation of the Adult Career Technical Education PCS lists former D.C. School Board Chairman Robert Bobb as a board member.

The PCSB is holding a public hearing for these applications on April 24th and will vote on them May 22nd.  The board’s Parent and Alumni Leadership Council is hosting a Town Hall to review them on April 11th at 6 p.m.

If the board follows the same pattern it has exhibited for the last two decades, approximately 40 percent of the new applicants will be granted charters.  This equates to three schools.  There are currently 90,454 individuals attending public school in the District of Columbia.  41,502 of these students, or 46 percent, are enrolled in charters, and 48,952, or 54 percent, go to DCPS.  The difference in enrollment between the two sectors is only 7,450 pupils.  The average size of a charter school is 400 kids.  Therefore, the approval of three new facilities will narrow this gap by 1,200 students.

But there are many other seats in the pipeline as the PCSB has been busy approving requests by existing schools to raise enrollment ceilings.  The day is fast approaching when an equal number of children sit in classrooms belonging to a charter compared to those that are in the DCPS system.  In addition, there is another significant change occurring regarding the education landscape in the nation’s capital.

The Opportunity Scholarship Program is about to grow significantly.  Serving Our Children, the new group administering this plan, has its sights set on racing to 3,000 participants, up from the approximately 1,100 scholars that currently receive vouchers.  Just last Friday, the U.S. House of Representative Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved re-authorization of the OSP for another five years, something the Senate and President will also certainly approve.  Eventually, the goal is to make this law permanent.

Charter schools in this city are erasing the achievement gap between rich and poor students; something many thought was an impossible feat.  Now that the OSP will be free from political interference and uncertainty we are on the road to bringing the same benefit to those receiving private school scholarships. 

Then we will finally be able to fulfill the final civil right of the most vulnerable members of our community:  providing a quality education to each and every child that needs one.  I hope that as a society we will have the foresight to record the names of all of the heroes that fought with every bit of their beings to help these young people, children that they may never even have had the chance to meet.

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