D.C. Mayor Bowser fails AppleTree Early Learning PCS

Today, the editors of the Washington Post follow-up on their column from June pointing to the travesty regarding AppleTree Early Learning PCS’s inability to secure a location for its Southwest campus that had been operating on the site of a DCPS facility. They write:

“Monday marks the start of a new academic year for the District’s public schools. Sadly, one school that won’t be opening its doors to students is the AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter. Thanks largely to the indifference of D.C. government, the school is without a facility for its highly acclaimed preschool program. That means 108 children, mainly African American and from economically disadvantaged families, won’t be able to benefit from a program that focuses on closing the achievement gap before kindergarten.”

The controversy was previously written about here. The location was taken away from AppleTree because of a renovation planned for DCPS’s Jefferson Middle School. If this project had been delayed by a year, then AppleTree could have been able to continue to teach at this site until its permanent home was ready next school term. Instead, the city turned its back on the charter school by its refusal to either allow it to continue at its present venue or find it an alternative.

This extremely depressing situation comes in the larger context of the Mayor holding onto over a million square feet of excess DCPS square footage that should be turned over to charters according to the law.

We now understand what is taking place here. If Ms. Bowser were to provide surplus buildings to charters, then the share of students attending these alternative schools would almost certainly go up. During the 2018 to 2019 school year, charters taught 47 percent of all public school students, equating to almost 44,000 pupils. Together with her Deputy Mayor of Education’s plea that the DC Public Charter School Board not approve the recent 11 applications it received for new schools, there is a concerted effort to make sure that charters do not exceed the fifty percent market share compared to the traditional schools on her watch.

I spoke not too long ago about the work of the Denver School of Science and Technology PCS’s reliance on emphasizing particular values in its successful effort to close the academic achievement gap. Here’s what the school’s CEO Bill Kurtz commented on the subject:

“We’re not just about compliance. We’re actually about building a values-driven culture with all of our students, so that they all understand what it means to live a set of values. They may not choose our values over time, but hopefully they will learn to choose a set of values that will guide them in the way that David Brooks would say are the eulogy values, the values that really matter in how you live your file – what you care about when you look back on your life.”

We hope that starting today both charter and DCPS schools that are opening their doors will focus on academics while helping to promote the values that will lead their children to a highly successful future. Mayor Bowser should follow this example and do the right thing when it comes to facility issues facing our charter school sector.

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