A few days ago Alex Koma of the Washington City Paper had a detailed article published regarding charter schools in the nation’s capital and their request for increased funding to match the newly ratified teachers’ union contract. The agreement, which the D.C. Council approved yesterday, provides a total of a 12 percent raise in teacher salaries that goes back retroactively three years to the start of contract negotiations. The D.C. Line’s Chris Kain pointed out that the new labor agreement ends on September 30, 2023 and includes, on top of the pay increase, a four percent retention bonus. As Mr. Koma pointed out, now charter schools want access to the same funding. His article includes this paragraph:
“’To ask public charter school leaders and teachers to continue serving students well with significantly fewer resources than DCPS exacerbates the inequity between the sectors and our most under-resourced students and their peers,’ Ariel Johnson, executive director of the DC Charter School Alliance, writes in a Dec. 19 letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Council. Sixty of D.C.’s 68 charter school operators signed onto the letter.”
However, there is a major problem with the tone of the letter sent to Ms. Bowser. The Charter Alliance, while pointing out that the traditional schools are receiving $38.7 million more than the charters in the 2023 budget, or $800 more per student, fails to stress that equivalent funding for both education sectors is the law under the 1995 School Reform Act.
In retrospect, I should have not been surprised. In a conversation I had some time ago with the founding executive director of the Alliance, Shannon Hodge, she asserted to me that there was no legal requirement that the same level of funding go to DCPS and charters. Never mind that FOCUS, the previous incarnation of the Alliance, engineered a lawsuit against the Mayor over the unequal, immoral, unlawful money that DCPS has received compared to charters which was estimated to be between $72 million and $127 million a year. I guess we should be happy that the variance has come down substantially, if this estimate is to be believed.
While this appears to be straightforward matter please remember that we are talking about Washington, D.C. where politics is always a factor. In this case, as Mr. Koma discussed, the union does not want charters to get the benefits of their contract negotiations without being part of the bargaining unit. It fears that this will provide further incentive for charter school teachers not to join the union. Newly elected Ward 3 Councilmember Matt Frumin apparently buys into this argument, as well as expressing a concern that if the charters get extra money they will not spend it on salaries.
My hero Pat Brantley, Friendship’s PCS’s CEO, has already committed, according to the City Paper, to dedicate additional revenue to teacher salaries. Although Ms. Brantley is being nice, she did not need to make this promise and in fact, she should not have taken this step.
I feel that the charter schools in Washington, D.C. have become too cooperative.
The piece by Mr. Koma concludes that Council Chairperson Phil Mendelson is open to providing matching dollars to charters.