Time for a new D.C. schools Adequacy Study

The other day I read a statement by Shannon Hodge, executive director of the DC Charter School Alliance, calling for the Deputy Mayor for Education to complete a revised Adequacy Study. I could not agree more.

The last one was released in 2013 and it was groundbreaking. The research behind the report demonstrated that the District of Columbia was shy 40,000 quality seats, and it mapped the locations were new high performing classrooms were needed. But the most astonishing part of the work, lead by then Mayor Vincent Gray and my favorite Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith, was that it put into print for the first time by the government the fact that charter schools were receiving inequitable funding compared to DCPS. The document pointed out that this was true because although all schools, charters and traditional, were funded at the same level through the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula, DCPS took advantage for free of government services, such as legal, information technology, and building maintenance, that charters could not access. It was a line of reasoning advanced for years and at every opportunity by Robert Cane, the prior head of Friends for Choice in Urban Schools. Mary Levy went on to quantify this disparity to be about $100 thousand to $125 thousand dollars a year.

The blatant unfairness continues unabated today and led to Eagle Academy PCS, Washington Latin PCS, when I was chair of its board, and the DC Association of Chartered Public School to sue the city to try and recover the revenue; a legal action that was eventually dismissed. Attorney Stephen Marcus led the effort. It was not something that charters wanted to do; we believed we had no other choice.

In addition, the 2013 study was extremely comprehensive in nature in that it tried to figure out exactly what the funding level of the UPSFF should be to eliminate the academic achievement gap in our town. It looked at each component of the per pupil allotment, including the much discussed weight for teaching at-risk students.

A lot has changed over nine years and much has not. The amount of tax revenue going to the two education sectors has gone up tremendously, now projected to exceed in fiscal year 2023 2.2 billion dollars annually. However, with this cash has not come the solution to the inequity that all of us involved in education want desperately to solve. When we do get around to testing our children it is almost certain, especially after two years of pandemic learning, that the difference in proficiency between the affluent and poor of 60 points has only increased.

It is imperative to perform another adequacy study. Let’s determine what the proper UPSFF should be. We should uncover how many quality seats the District needs to provide each and every scholar an exceptional pedagogical experience. How will we react if the number comes back again at 40,000?

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