D.C. charter school wait list approaching 10,000 children

Last week, without emotion, the DC Public Charter School Board released the latest figures for the number of children wait listed while trying to obtain entrance to a charter school.  We are now up to 9,703 pupils.  The number represents a 12.3 percent increase over last year.  841 more kids are on this list than were present in 2016.  In addition, the PCSB points out, that for a dozen schools the list of those who want to be enrolled is double the number of their entire population of students.

Take D.C. Bilingual PCS as an example.  This academically strong charter teaches 364 kids.  The wait list to get in is 1,176 people.  Interested in having your child go to Creative Minds International PCS?  181 fortunate parents received the good news that their offspring can learn there.  But 1,286 young people who wanted to gain the same experience cannot.  Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freeedom PCS teaches 350 scholars with 1,595 wanting in.  Washington Latin PCS, where I served as board chair, has a wait list of 1,176 students while admitting 670. (The wait list numbers are from March 31, 2017, while the school enrollment figures are from the 2015-to-2016 PCSB school profiles.)

This situation is not something that should be casually reported.  It is a crisis for the families living in our city.  How in the world can we offer our neighbors a quality education for their children when the chance of landing in the public school of their choice may be harder than getting into Harvard or Yale?  This situation will only get worse as it is estimated that 1,000 new residents a month are moving into the nation’s capital.

This tremendous demand for high-quality charter schools, demonstrated by the PCSB revelation that 60 percent of the wait list is for the top Tier 1 schools, could have the unintended consequence of turning public opinion against these institutions that now educate 46 percent of all kids in the city.  For if an insufficient number can get in, and the frustration level rises among residents, then attention could be turned to simply strengthening DCPS.

Instead of publishing information on a web page the PCSB should be in crisis mode.  The organization, along with other stakeholders, needs to be on the phone with school leaders and funders from here and across the United States trying to figure out how to bring greater capacity to our local movement.

But on the other hand, never mind.  Àferall,  it is spring break.

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