Demand that D.C. charter schools comply with FOIA has nothing to do with complying with FOIA

The opinion piece by Lis Kidder that appeared yesterday in the Washington Post was terrific. A lawyer whose job involves complying with Freedom of Information Act requests, she also has two children that attend Latin American Montessori Bilingual PCS. Ms. Kidder offered a polemic on the reasons that D.C. Council member Charles Allen’s bill requiring charter schools to comply with FOIA requirements is a bad idea.

The article was forceful, logical, well thought-out, and clear. It will also not change public opinion.

The terribly unfortunate premise behind my assertion is that the argument over whether charters should have to respond to FOIA requests is actually not about FOIA at all. What this fuss is really focused on is nothing less than the desire by a segment of the populous to bring an end to our local charter school movement.

“No,” I can hear you saying. “You are not right. It is simply an attempt to treat charters the same as the traditional schools.” I’m sorry but these sentiments could not be further from the truth. How do I know?

Let’s look at the union playbook. The National Education Association Action Guide on Charter Schools spells out the organization’s strategy:

“In the case of charter schools, the key is accountability. The goal is great schools for every student. If charter schools can achieve good results without cherry-picking students, falsifying test scores or cooking the books, we can welcome them to the neighborhood. If charter schools will open their board meetings and accept parents to join it, they can become part of the local community. The next step may be to organize their teachers to make sure they are professionally treated and adequately paid” (page 17).

Of course, charter schools do not cherry-pick students, falsify test scores, or cook the books. But accuracy is not the point here. Teachers’ unions want these schools to disappear off the face of the earth because its instructors do not, for the most part, work under a collective bargaining agreement. In order to make it as difficult as possible for these schools to operate, the Action Guide includes this mandate:

“Charter schools must be subject to the same open meeting and open record laws as the public schools” (page 4).

This is a war whose front line has landed at Mundo Verde Bilingual PCS. Since the union failed at Paul PCS and Cesar Chavez PCS, it is extremely frustrated and has aimed its scope at a new infiltration site. You know things are bad when an anonymous letter written by a Mundo Verde parent asks the following question:

“Why are outsiders speaking at the Board Meeting who have no kids in our school? What are their motivations?”

By now the nature of this inquiry should be seen as strictly rhetorical. We know why outsiders are speaking at board meetings. They are here to destroy what we have spent over 20 years creating. They are here to stutter the great innovative charters that brave men and women have designed and built. They are here to make sure we go back to a city of only neighborhood schools.

They are here because the union’s needs supersede the needs of our children.

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