D.C. charter schools are as privately managed as DCPS

Another day, another accusation by education reporters in the nation’s capital that D.C. charter schools are privately managed. The line is used again and again by free-lancer Rachel Cohen, the Washington Post’s Perry Stein, and WAMU’s Jenny Abamu. Perhaps these individuals believe that if they keep repeating it over and over again it will become the truth. Let’s take a closer look at what is really going on.

Each charter school is a nonprofit corporation that is governed by a volunteer board of directors. This board is comprised of two parents of current students at the school plus other professionals. The directors, who are elected by the other board members, are often lawyers, bankers, education specialists, and experts in organizational management. In other words they possess skills that can benefit and support the head of the school. Half of the trustees must live in the District of Columbia. So you can see that charters are run by the community: by people who live and work near the families that decide to send their children to a particular school.

When it comes to DCPS however, there are no boards of directors. The principal reports to the Chancellor. Therefore, while parents at a charter can appeal to its board if they have a concern at a school, there is no equivalent in the traditional system. There is an elected State Board of Education, but this body is a policy-making group that does not have responsibilities over individual facilities.

Charter schools ultimately report to the DC Public Charter School Board. Its volunteer members are nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the council. As has been pointed out many times recently, the PCSB is a governmental entity that must comply with open meeting and FOIA laws.

DCPS is run by the Chancellor who is appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the DC Council. So the two sectors almost mirror each other in the manner in which elected representatives have influence over their schools. One important difference, however, is that the Mayor and Council have a limited role in deciding the rules under which charters operate. which is restricted to the areas of the health and safety of students, and funding. In addition, the PCSB has much less control over the schools it oversees compared to the Chancellor, although some of my charter friends would argue that this contrast has greatly narrowed over the years.

But while there are similarities between the reporting relationship of charters and DCPS, the two could not be more different when it comes to their inherent natures. DCPS is composed of neighborhood schools, while charters are schools of choice. This structural variance is central to the education of our kids, especially in the inner city.

Traditional schools are bureaucratic entities in which the employees are responsible to the hierarchy. The organizational chart creates its own incentives for the way people behave. The result, sadly, is staff that can become more focused on pleasing the person above them in authority rather than concentrating on the needs of the young person in front of them on a daily basis.

Charters operate in an educational marketplace. The number of students going to these schools determine its revenue since money follows the child. School choice becomes a powerful force in directing adults to try and satisfy the pedagogical needs of their pupils.

While DCPS also receives its funding based on the number of students that attend a school, there is not nearly as close a connection as with charters since neighborhood schools often have a captive audience of attendees.

It is the essence of school choice that has driven our local charters to be able to close the academic achievement gap. Many of them located in Wards 7 and 8 score as high as students attending classrooms in Ward 3. Instead of the attacks that have been leveled at charter schools lately, we need to honor their success. They receive a lower level of per pupil funding than the regular schools, about two thousand dollars less per child each year, and they face an intractable facility shortage that no one has been able to solve.

For what charter schools have been able to accomplish under these circumstances they should and must be celebrated. Every year, month, day, hour, minute, and second.

Today may be a tough day at Mundo Verde PCS

Word on the street is that unless today the administration of Mundo Verde Bilinqual PCS voluntarily accepts union representation of its teachers by the District of Columbia Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, the employees will walk off the job. This follows the claim last Thursday on Twitter by DCACTS that school leadership blocked the school’s doorway as parents supporting the union tried to enter the building to urge the charter’s board of directors to work collaboratively toward recognition of the union.

Of course, if the teachers at Mundo Verde desert their students then they are forfeiting their positions. The action by Mundo Verde’s instructors is similar to the tactics utilized by the American Federation of Teachers-associated union at Cesar Chavez PCS’s Prep Middle School campus. There, DCACTS took to organizing a march in order to protest the failure of the charter to finalize a collective bargaining agreement. The move did not work, and the exercise came across as childish and silly. It also demonstrated for all to see the lack of concern by teachers regarding their students’ education.

Unions do not belong in charter schools. They are antithetical to the nature of these institutions. As Jeanne Allen, the founder and chief executive officer of the Center for Education Reform, pointed out last week, “But the value of charters now seems to be lost even on some who are considered part of the charter school sector. Some parents at Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School are inviting unions to take over their staffing, convinced by an ideological belief that the success of their exceptional charter school is unrelated to autonomy and freedom to hire and contract with nonunion teachers.

They will soon see that once a union is inside the walls and structures of an autonomous public school, it will lose its freedom, its edge, and its relentless focus on student-centered education. The record is clear: Every time a charter school unionizes, it eventually fails. Even if the school survives for a time, it will fall in demand and lose clarity of purpose.”

Since Mundo Verde is now fighting for its survival it should do everything in its power to prevent the union from infiltrating its space. This includes making the decision to close its P Street, N.W. location. As the school’s website states, in 2010, “a group of parents, motivated by the unmet demand for quality, tuition-free, experiential education, teamed up to develop Mundo Verde. Nearly 30 individuals and partners came together to create the school’s vision and concept.”

The unmet demand is still there eight years after this school was opened as evidenced by the fact that there are over 2,000 students on its 2019-to-2020 wait list. Adding a union, and thereby making the school look like a part of DCPS, will ensure that no child is being served at this charter.

D.C. charter board has tough choices about approving new schools

As I’ve previously mentioned, the DC Public Charter School Board received 11 applications for new schools this cycle, which may be an unprecedented number. What I’ve noticed is that the quality of these bids is exceptionally strong. Reading the hundreds of pages of charter proposals leads one to believe that all should be allowed to begin teaching children. But choices have to be made and here are mine.

Already on my list is The Sojourner Truth PCS from Monday night’s PCSB meeting. From the next evening I liked I Dream Academy DC PCS, a proposed pre-Kindergarten three to sixth grade school that would instruct 240 pupils in Ward 7 or 8. As we saw with Sojouner, the Dream Academy team, dressed in matching white tee shirts and black jackets, were able to confidentially handle any question directed their way by board members.

I would also give the green light to Anna Julie Cooper PCS. This Kindergarten through twelfth grade school would be located in Ward 6 instructing 568 children. The application contains this information about the school’s namesake:

“Born into slavery, Anna Julia Cooper devoted her life to classical study, ultimately becoming the fourth African-American woman in history to receive a doctorate, and the first from the Sorbonne. Her life testified to the power and importance of education in bestowing dignity and opportunity upon its learners. Dr. Cooper conceived of the liberal arts curriculum as essential in educating the entire human soul, believing that such an education produces men and women of character, who are prepared to confront and right the wrongs and ills facing the nation. . .

In 1906, Anna Julia Cooper resigned as principal of the M Street High School, following a controversy in which the school board disagreed with her educational aspirations and methods. Instead of simply preparing her African American students for vocational professions as was the norm in her day, Cooper scandalously believed that these students were capable of more. Her curriculum was a classical one, designed to prepare her students to think independently, respond creatively, and process critically. In short, Anna Julia Cooper had the audacity to believe that every student was entitled to and capable of an education that liberated them from an allotted and prescribed path and profession.”

The charter will receive free support from Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School Initiative that currently assists 20 schools across the country in successfully establishing a classical liberal arts curriculum.

Two schools that sought to open new schools last year and were turned down, but that should be given the go-ahead now are Bolt Academy PCS and Capital Village PCS. Bolt Academy, a Ward 6 high school with 400 students conceived by my friend Seth Andrew, removed the student residential requirement and now limits its study abroad component to summers. Capital Village, which will have its home in Ward 1, 4, 5, or 6 and enroll 180 children in its grade five through eight middle school, updated its bid to include back-filling vacant slots. The board was impressed.

If my advice is followed, then that would mean five out of eleven new applications would be approved, representing a rate of 45.5 percent. This is over my estimate of 40 percent which therefore makes it too high. Adding to this complication is that there is one more charter I would like to see pass the test.

Aspire to Excellence Academy PCS would teach children in pre-Kindergarten three and four and offer vocational training to adults in bookkeeping, construction trades, and national hair care. It would also provide an opportunity to earn a high school diploma or G.E.D. The Ward 6 charter, which reminds me of the Briya PCS model, would enroll 22 three and four year-olds and 148 grown-ups. I thought the founding group did an outstanding job in their presentation. My heart is with Aspire.

The final decisions will be announced at the May 20th PCSB meeting.

Next D.C. target for teachers’ union is Mundo Verde PCS

No sooner did we rid the city of a teachers’ union in D.C.’s charter schools comes the disappointing news from the Washington Post’s Perry Stein that the American Federation of Teachers is trying to organize at Mundo Verde Bilinqual PCS. Her article points out that instructors at the school state that they want more of a say in the management of the charter. They also want a raise. In reality, if this move is successful, they will most likely get neither.

Ms. Stein states that the school missed a deadline imposed by staff members to recognize union representation last week. I received word at this time that the union activity was going on, with the support of parents, but could not get confirmation because it was spring break. In her article, Ms. Stein includes this comment from Kristin Scotchmer, the charter’s executive director.

“We know that every member of the school team seeks to make Mundo Verde the best it can be. As a result, we need to include all members of our community in this conversation, including those that have reservations about unionization. There is good reason to consider deliberately any implications for Mundo Verde and our school community if a labor contract were to govern how teachers and other staff interacted with administrators, students, and families.”

The Post article states that at least 90 of the 110 teaches at the school are in favor of joining the AFT. There were hints in the past that this institution was ripe for union involvement. At a meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board in May 2017, when the school was seeking to replicate, I reported:

“More than a dozen parents testified that the expansion plans for this school was coming too soon with complaints that there was high teacher turnover occurring at the charter, although the school stated that it has a retention rate of over 80 percent.  They also contended that the school had just reached its current maximum enrollment this year, and therefore it was premature in its relatively short six year history to grow to another site.  The negative statements resulted in spurring PCSB executive director Scott Pearson to interject a couple of times in the discussion to point out Mundo Verde’s impressive track record.”

It was also Mr. Pearson who suggested in 2016 that having union membership at a D.C. charter school could be a good idea.

The weather is nice right now in Washington, D.C. so maybe the teachers at Mundo Verde will follow the example of Christian Herr at Cesar Chavez PCS and take to protesting on the streets. Alternatively, they could also emulate those at Chavez Prep by taking their case to the National Labor Relations Board. In any case, the losers will be the students at the school who are there to learn.

Mundo Verde is set to open a new campus this coming August. Perhaps if the union vote goes through all operations can be moved to the new location.

Out of 3 new D.C. charter school applications, 1 should be approved

The March meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board started with a long list of public speakers that extended to almost the first hour of the session. Were these individuals concerned about charter school transparency or Open Meeting laws? No, they were in support of the new school applications that were about to be heard. Eleven entities have completed the arduous process of filing to create new charters, a truly amazing number compared to the drought of applications that have been received in recent cycles. It would be fantastic to see the public reaction if all were approved to open in the 2020-to-2021 school year. But in reality that will not happen. The PCSB traditionally gives the green light to about 40 percent of those asking for permission to create new classroom space and this will almost certainly be the case here.

First up on this evening was The Sojourner Truth PCS, a proposed sixth-through-twelfth grade Montessori charter eventually teaching 790 students that would prefer to locate in Ward 5. Executive director Justin Lessek knocked his presentation out of the park. His poise and ability to articulately answers to questions is a model for other applicants to follow. The board expressed concerns about the application of Montessori to pupils beyond the elementary years, and its use with a population of children that may have not had previous experience with this teaching methodology. Please don’t misunderstand, this charter would not necessarily be fed from the currently existing Montessori schools in the city. The founders recognize that its student body would come from a wide variety of pedagogical backgrounds. The representatives from Sojourner demonstrated they are definitely up to the challenge.

Evolve PCS would be a 400-student high school wanting to locate in Wards 1,4,5, or 6. It would offer the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme and become affiliated with Big Picture Learning. The school’s application describes Big Picture Learning as “an international network of widely varied schools bound by a common commitment to an experiential, democratic, relationship-focused educational model that uses project-based learning as its core instructional method to serve one student at a time.” To understand why this school needs to go back to the drawing board, consider this portion of its submission:

“We chose the four pathways listed above due to their breadth of coursework and responses on our preliminary student survey. Between the four pathways, students will be able to access curriculum ranging from architecture and design and green methods (Engineering) to Biomedical innovation, forensics and mental health (Health Sciences) and Entrepreneurship and Ethics in Business (Finance) and art history and graphic design through SCAD. Available courses vary by student interest and staff expertise and are chosen the year prior to being offered. All courses are the equivalent of one semester in length and occur once per week during an 85-minute block. Curriculum and standards are developed by NAF and SCAD, respectively. NAF teachers will be trained on the curriculum during the summer between our second and third years, in time to teach a selection of courses to rising 11th graders. NAF courses are designed to be technical in nature and hands-on. SCAD courses are taken online and students check-in with their Advisor regularly to ensure progress.”

It is all too much.

The final presentation came from the leadership of Girls Global Academy PCS. I was surprised to see that the board chair of this new charter would be Beth Blaufuss, the former head of Archbishop Carroll High School who I deeply respect and who I call a friend. The charter would teach 450 young women in Ward 2. The pillars comprising the foundation of this school are described in its application as Sisterhood, Service, Scholarship, and Safety. The idea behind this facility is that black and Latino female students need the support of a single gender entity to provide them with the self-esteem to be able to be successful in the future. The curriculum would be based upon the use of I.B. Career-related program, STEM-related courses, and service learning. Upon approval of this school’s application by the PCSB, it would be eligible to receive a $270,000 grant from CityBridge Education.

There was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm expressed by the founding group. I didn’t feel that energy being reflected back by the board. Perhaps that was due to the fact that there was the proverbial elephant in the room. The PCSB went through an extremely difficult process around closing Excel Academy PCS, an all-girls school, in early 2018, only to see that institution become part of DCPS. Excel had demonstrated extremely low academic performance and management challenges throughout its existence. I got the notion that the board is not ready for a repeat performance, especially in light of all Global Academy is setting out to accomplish.

The remaining eight applications will be heard by the board this evening.

D.C. charter school student wait list keeps getting worse

The DC Public Charter School Board released data yesterday regarding the student wait lists for the 2019-to-2020 term and you can just hear the frustration being emitted from the mouths of parents. I guess all you really have to read is the first sentence of the announcement to get a complete sense of the problem:

“There are 11,861 individual students on the My School DC lottery waitlists to attend one or more PK-12 public charter schools in SY2019-20, a 4.8% increase over last year’s 11,317 students and a 22.2% increase from the 9,703 students in SY2017-18.”

The board also pointed out that 67 percent of those on wait lists are for Performance Management Framework Tier 1 schools. It adds that 40 percent of open spaces are in Tier 1 schools. There is especially strong demand for Pre-Kindergarten to Kindergarten and the sixth grade. Dual-language charters are especially popular.

One student may appear on multiple wait lists.

Some of the schools with the largest wait lists and the number of students include Creative Minds International PCS, 1,030; DC Bilingual PCS, 1,403; District of Columbia International School, 1,565; Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS – Brookland campus, 1,722; Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS, 1,218; Latin American Montessori Bilingual PCS, 1,069; Mundo Verde PCS, 1,412; Two Rivers PCS – 4th Street campus, 1,659, Washington Latin PCS – middle school, 1,254, and Washington Yu Ying PCS, 1,168.

The wait list to get into a DCPS school is 9,437.

Even if the charters with significant wait lists wanted to expand or replicate there is absolutely nowhere for them to go. Commercial space, although exorbitantly expensive to rent, is not even available. Many DCPS facilities sit empty and a great number are grossly underutilized. Yet, the people we elect to represent us are doing nothing about this issue. Instead, they spend hours and hours in furious debate over what information a charter school must include on their website.

Good news from D.C.’s charter school movement

Let’s take a short break from talk of school closures, teachers’ unions, and transparency legislation to highlight a couple of good developments in D.C.’s charter landscape. First, last Friday the Washington Post’s Thomas Heath wrote a beautiful profile of Eagle Academy PCS’s Royston Maxwell Lyttle, principal of its Congress Heights campus. Mr. Heath wrote:

“His uniform is pure Wall Street: loafers, dress pants and crisp-collar shirt topped off with his signature bow tie.

‘It’s being there,’ said Lyttle, as he strolled through the school, which is 98 percent African American, on a sunny spring morning. ‘Being visible, knowing their names, learning handshakes, talking about better choices.’

His job is as much visual as it is verbal. ‘I am always in shirt and tie, trying to get them to ‘visualize yourself.’ When you see someone in shirt and bow tie, you see this person in a wonderful job.’

Lyttle takes students to World Wrestling Entertainment matches, makes connections and builds trust, trying to get them to relax and enjoy themselves. He hosts lunches in the cafeteria, a chance to mentor or just listen.

‘Students cannot learn if they are not socially and emotionally there,’ Lyttle said.”

The Post reporter has this to say about the challenges Mr. Lyttle faces at his school:

“Eagle Academy grapples with intractable problems in American society and illuminates the effects of the uneven distribution of wealth. Its student body — ages 3 to 9 — is from Congress Heights, one of the city’s poorest areas. Ninety-two students, or 14 percent of Eagle’s enrollment, live in homeless shelters. Sixty-four percent live in single-parent households. Twenty-two percent, or 152 children, receive special education. Some need counseling for years.”

The charter received a jolt last November when the annual Performance Management Framework results were released. For 2018, the Congress Heights location fell to a Tier 3 ranking. So the school jumped into action. According to Mr. Health, the big drop in test scores led to the firing of 26 teachers, who were replaced with 18 new ones.”

I think the world of Mr. Joe Smith, the CEO/CFO of Eagle Academy. He would never allow this score to stand. He cares about the children too much for this to happen.

In other news, Washington Latin PCS has announced that it is going to replicate. Beginning next year it will open a new school that will start with the fifth grade that will eventually go up to twelfth. Other details about the expansion are extremely limited. For the 2018-to-2019 school year Washington Latin had a wait list of almost 1,600 children. Leaders at the school apparently feel like they have a moral obligation to be able to accept more students. How many other charters with excessively large wait lists feel the same way?

Washington Post finally comes to defense of charter schools but does not go far enough

Today the editors of the Washington Post come to the defense of D.C.’s charter schools in opposing the transparency law introduced by Council member Charles Allen. They point out that due to the popularity of these public schools with parents, this city’s charters have been able up to this point to escape the attacks that have characterized this movement in other localities. However, with the introduction of Mr. Allen’s statute the situation has now changed. They write:

“The opening volley in this effort is legislation being promoted as a well-meaning effort at transparency and accountability. Sponsored by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), the measure would subject the independent nonprofit charter schools to the open-meetings and Freedom of Information Act requirements that apply to D.C. government entities.

We are firm believers in sunshine in public matters, but this legislation — which seems to be taken from the national teachers union playbook on how to kneecap charter schools — is not designed to benefit the public or help students. It ignores the fact that the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which oversees the city’s 123 public charter schools, is already subject to both the open-meetings law and freedom-of-information requests. The board, which has earned national renown for the rigor of its standards, requires charters to disclose financial information, including how they use resources from the government and what they accomplish with those resources. Charters participate in state testing and federal accountability programs, and the charter board leads the way in providing comprehensive evaluations of charters and the job they do in educating students.”

First of all the Post has it only partly right. Charters in the nation’s capital have not been subject to the same false diatribe that these schools in other cities, such as Los Angeles and Chicago, have experienced. However, we just went through a horrible and highly distracting unionization episode at one of our oldest networks. The editors seem to have had this recent escapade on their minds when they were constructing their piece:

“It is telling that one bit of information sought in the legislation proposed by Mr. Allen — who seems not to have consulted with charter officials and declined to discuss the bill with us — is a listing of the names of all charter school employees and their salaries. It’s hard to see how that’s critical to student learning but easy to see how it might help unions in their bid to organize at charter schools.”

In addition, the newspaper’s editors say nothing about the bill being advanced by education committee chairman David Grosso that contains its own transparency requirements. They observe that charters receive only 70 percent of the funding of the traditional schools, and therefore having to answer to Freedom of Information Act requests would be burdensome for their small administrative staffs. However, the data required to be shared by Mr. Grosso also imposes an unfunded mandate on this sector. The Council should worry about the academic performance of the 48,000 students that are enrolled in DCPS facilities and leave the charters to the DC Public Charter School Board. This body has its own list of onerous reporting requirements.

Not an education post today, sort of

Justin Wm. Moyer of the Washington Post revealed last evening that Childrens National Health System next year will open a pediatric health research facility on the site of the old Walter Reed Hospital. The 12-acre Children’s National Research and Innovation Campus will include an outpatient clinic.

The $190 million center is being build with a gift of $30 million from the
United Arab Emirates. Mr. Moyer added that “the UAE gift was announced the same day Children’s National said it would partner with Johnson & Johnson to build a 32,000-square-foot facility on the new campus called JLabs @ Washington, DC. In a collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, JLabs will focus on medical responses to chemical, biological and nuclear threats, as well as infectious diseases. “

The grant from the UAE comes almost exactly a decade after Joseph E. Robert, Jr. engineered a $150 million contribution from the same nation. Mr. Robert is not mentioned in yesterday’s Post article, which is exactly how he would have wanted it. The Washington, D.C. businessman and philanthropist, who passed away from brain cancer at the end of 2011, much preferred operating behind the scenes. The New York Times covered his achievement in 2009 that led to the formation of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at the hospital’s current site:

“The institute’s goals were hatched in the home of Joseph E. Robert Jr., who made a fortune selling the real estate held by failed savings and loans in the early 1990s.

Mr. Robert’s son had undergone more than nine hours of surgery at Children’s National several years before that. His son has since become a Marine, and Mr. Robert donated $25 million to the hospital for a surgical center. A few years after that, he was sitting around his dining room table with some hospital executives, discussing how to make surgery less frightening and painful for its patients and their parents.

Last fall, armed with the business plan that came out of that initial discussion, Mr. Robert visited Abu Dhabi. He had become friendly with the ruling family and with the crown prince, Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

‘We were eating dinner off of TV trays, in front of a bank of televisions, watching the news, and I just started talking about the evolution of the plan and how important a concept I thought it was, and he was immediately interested,’ Mr. Robert said.”

Mr. Robert was also instrumental in support of Washington D.C.’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, the plan that provides private school vouchers for children living in poverty in the nation’s capital. Just recently, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that she would like to double the size of the OSP from $45 million to $90 million. In trying to figure out how to get this program passed by Congress in 2004, Mr. Robert promoted the three-sector approach that gives equal funding to vouchers, DCPS, and charter schools. Mayor Bowser has stated that she supports the OSP because of the money it provides to the traditional schools and charters, as well as the additional choices it gives to parents regarding the education of their children.

When he was alive Mr. Robert was a fierce advocate for those less fortunate then himself, and he enlisted many from the fields of politics, entertainment, business, and healthcare to give of themselves and their pocketbooks to join his endeavors.  He founded Fight for Children which has raised over $300 million for young people in the Washington, D.C. area. He is credited with bringing in over a billion dollars for children and education.

As we have seen in the news in the last week, his legacy continues.

U.S. Education Secretary goes bold on D.C. voucher plan; others go weak

Another Democratic Congress, another chance to attack the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the private school voucher plan for kids living in poverty in the nation’s capital. Last week, the Washington Post’s Jenna Portnoy revealed that D.C. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, together with the the House Oversight and Reform and Education and Labor committees, wrote a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seeking information expressing concerns about the OSP. According to the reporter:

“Lawmakers said they want to ensure that federal civil rights laws and safety regulations apply to students in the program, according to the three-page letter to DeVos from Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Education Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) and Norton.

They requested details about schools participating in the program, including whether they are accredited, whether they are religiously affiliated, how much of their funding comes from the voucher program, whether they have tested drinking water for lead, how many students are disabled and English-language learners, and how many students did not graduate or transferred to another school.”

The questioning comes as Ms. DeVos has moved to increase the number of vouchers awarded to low-income students by raising the budget of the program from its current $45 million dollars a year to $90 million.

The legislative SOAR Act that contains funding for the OSP has been supported locally by Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson because it provides equal dollars to private school vouchers, charter schools, and DCPS, following the three-sector approach championed by the late businessman and philanthropist Joseph E. Robert, Jr. Ms. Portnoy includes in her article the following reaction from the Bowser Administration regarding a challenge to the OSP:

“The program ‘has been instrumental in supporting the District’s three-sector approach on education by providing more opportunities and choices for our students and families,’ Bowser spokeswoman LaToya Foster said in a statement. ‘We have called on Congress to reauthorize and fully fund [it] so that we have the resources we need to continue ensuring every family in every neighborhood has a fair shot at high quality educational opportunities.’

Choices for families are needed now more than ever. The 2019 D.C. lottery just concluded, so we are expecting anytime this year’s charter school student wait list data. However, for the 2019-to-2020 school term there are 9,437 students on DCPS wait lists and last year there were over 11,000 pupils wanting to get into charters who could not. Having your child admitted to your desired public school continues to be a tremendously frustrating experience for District of Columbia families. Ms. DeVos is on exactly the right track.

Not so brave are those trying to defend charters from those that want to see them become a part of history. The latest assault comes in the form of a Trojan Horse complaint about the lack of transparency around charter school board meetings and finances. The D.C. Council has gotten into the act in the form of a bill introduced by Charles Allen that would force a long list of unfunded mandates on charters. In reaction, last week Council Education Chairman David Grosso brought forth an alternative that would force charters to comply with Open Meeting laws and detail expenses for all to see. The legislation is supported by all the remaining council members and, incomprehensibly, by FOCUS. My god, didn’t we just recently close a charter school in part to rid our movement of union activity? Couldn’t someone have similar guts to tell the Council to stay out of a school sector over which it has no authority?