The DC Public Charter School Board yesterday released the waitlist data for the schools it oversees and the findings are not good for families living in the city. The backlog of seats has now grown to 11,317, up from the highly disturbing number last year of 9,703, a growth of 17 percent. Perhaps more alarming is that the demand is, as the board admits “accelerating,” since the waitlist increase was only one percent in 2016 compared to the prior year, and jumped 12 percent when calculating the variance of this statistic from 2017 to 2016.
For this year, again according to the DC PCSB, the waitlist number “means nearly one out of every eight public school students in DC wishes to enroll in a charter school that has no room.”
The schools with the most number of students trying to get in but cannot reads like an honor role of institutions that charter followers know well. They are, with the waitlist number in parentheses, Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS Brookland Campus (1,827); Two Rivers PCS Fourth Street Campus (1,806); Mundo Verde Bilingual PCS (1,702); Creative Minds International PCS, whose founder and executive director I recently interviewed, (1,574); DC Bilingual PCS (1,292); Latin American Montessori Bilingual PCS (1,277); Washington Yu Ying PCS (1,088) Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS (1,071); District of Columbia International School PCS (1,042); Washington Latin PCS Middle School Campus (951); and Basis PCS (773). The names go on with many fine schools with waitlists of hundreds of students. You can see the entire chart here.
The board points out that about 2,000 new charter school seats are opened per year, but with the number of kids trying to get in as shown above, that will hardly make a dent in the situation. It also admits that parents are frustrated by the inability to find a charter school for their children.
A co-worker of mine recently entered the My School DC lottery for one of her children. When her son did not get into the school she wanted she decided to enroll him in a private school. Next year, she and her husband will move, most likely out of the city, in order to get the kind of education she wants for her offspring.
This example is being repeated over and over and over again in the District. However, for the overwhelming number of families a private school option or relocation is financially out of the question.
In 2018, 64 years after Brown v. Board of Education, a family’s zip code is still determining the quality of public education their children receive.
The charter board states that the lack of charter school facilities is harming the ability of good schools to grow and replicate. Then what is it doing about the problem? Also, what responsibility does it take when implementing an accountability system that makes school leaders reluctant to expand, combined with an application process for new schools that is itself a deterrent to complete. What impact does the mantra “Tier 1 on day 1” have on school supply?
Over at DCPS the situation is no better. The most recent Deputy Mayor for Education and Chancellor resigned in disgrace, and as was revealed, the previous chancellor skirted the rules regarding residency requirements and made discretionary placements for high ranking officials. The Mayor is essentially silent on the problems of the schools she oversees which appear to continue unabated, preferring instead to cheer-lead her way to re-election.
We are in a public education crisis and city leaders, politicians, public policy experts, and philanthropists go to work everyday like everything is fine.
It is not fine. When is someone going to do something?