D.C. charter board approves 5 out of 11 applications for new schools

At a busy, fast paced monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board, the body went ahead and approved 5 new schools to open at the beginning of the 2020-to-2021 term. It had received a record 11 applications as well as a written warning from Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn that the local market was already saturated with middle and high schools. Chair Rick Cruz, however, was in no mood to listen to someone trying to limit competition for students, especially when the offerings from DCPS in these areas is for the most part, well, crap. He made some other interesting remarks on this subject that the PCSB posted on-line. So on with the show.

But first up on the agenda was Washington Latin PCS which would like to replicate in 2020. Latin, whose board I once served, meets all of the criteria to expand by miles. However, this did not stop PCSB board member Steve Bumbaugh from outlining some facts which he called “exhausting.” For instance, he related that in Washington, D.C. fully half of all public school students are categorized as “at-risk,” but the population at Washington Latin for this group of children is 6.8 percent in middle school and 16.8 percent in high school. Mr. Bumbaugh also found it “frustrating” that the suspension rate for these students is 26.6 percent. His points received applause from the audience. Representatives of the charter, who included head of school Peter Anderson and principal Diana Smith, spoke about their efforts to reduce the suspension rate, and will utilize the still undetermined location for the second campus together with revised marketing efforts to increase the number of kids from low-income households that it serves. Although these comments were not altogether satisfying, look for Latin to have its request to amend its charter approved in June.

Then it was on to the list of new school applications. Those that were given the green light include Capital Village PCS, which will have its home in Ward 1, 4, 5, or 6 and enroll 180 children in its grade five through eight middle school; Girls Global Academy PCS, a ninth through twelfth grade school that would teach 450 young women in Ward 2; I Dream Academy PCS, a pre-Kindergarten three to sixth grade school that will instruct 240 pupils in Ward 7 or 8; Social Justice PCS, a five through eighth grade middle school that would like to open in Ward 5; and the Sojouner Truth PCS, that I wrote about extensively here.

As I had already mentioned, all the applications this cycle were of high quality. The board followed its pattern of previous years and gave the go ahead to 46 percent of those wanting to create new classrooms. I correctly picked three of the five that will open and would have selected three others that the PCSB members did not. One glaring omission I believe is Anna Julie Cooper PCS which would have added 568 pupils in grades Kindergarten through twelfth. I hope this group applies again in 2020 since its initial bid was so thoughtful and strong.

Finally a couple of additional observations. All five approved charters comprised CityBridge Education’s 2018 cohort of new schools, so huge congratulations goes to this organization. In addition, I would not help but notice that all votes by the PCSB were unanimous regarding whether to give a charter a thumbs up or down. We really need someone to show some independence among its membership.

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