Federal money for charter schools is unconstitutional (except in D.C.)

I have read the outcry over the suggested new rules to three components of the United States Department of Education’s Charter School Program. I have seen the protests over them by parents and students at the DOE headquarters and the White House organized by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The language contained in this proposal will almost certainly cut off $440 million annually for charter school openings and expansion. While there is no greater charter school proponent then me, I’m not sad to see the money go.

The charter school movement prides itself in advancing the academic achievement of students, many of whom were failing in traditional public schools. To be consistent with this mission our sector must be sure that is teaching civics in a highly accurate fashion. Here’s where the problem comes in. The United States Constitution’s Article 1 Section 8 delineates the powers of Congress. Support in the way of revenue for public education is no where mentioned.

I know what you are saying: “Mark, Congress has for decades exceeded its authority under the Constitution.” This statement is true, however, it does not make appropriating funds to charter schools the allowable thing to do. Through our pedagogy we impart values to our students. The difference between right and wrong is one of the best lessons that we can teach.

I am also concerned that taking money from the federal government introduces politics into the authorization process. This is exactly what we have seen take place here. The New York Times last Friday ran an exceptionally balanced piece about the new rules written by Erica Green. To understand the motives behind the teachers’ unions anti-charter efforts all you have to know, as Ms. Green points out in her article, is that Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, started a tweet on the subject of these rules with the hashtag #CharterSchoolsFalling. President Joe Biden is a tremendous union supporter.

Yes, it is still a war out there between charter and traditional school supportors. As charter advocates we should never let down our guard. The best way to see our model flourish and grow is to seek support from outside the federal government. I’m sure Elon Musk, Tim Cook, and Jeff Bezos have incentives to see the United States produce well-educated children. As I pointed out in a previous column, Michael Bloomberg has already set a strong example in this regard.

Finally, just to be perfectly accurate, it is fine for the federal government to authorize revenue for charter schools in the District. That is because our Constitution gives Congress power “to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District.” It is stated right there in Section 8. 

D.C. Council Chairman Mendelson breaks law when it comes to at-risk student funding; move applauded by DC Charter School Alliance

A few days ago, the Washington Post’s Perry Stein revealed a move by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to increase the amount of money going to at-risk students as part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget. Here’s the background:

The reporter states that at-risk students are “those who are homeless or in foster care, whose families qualify for food stamps, and students who are in high school and have been held back at least one year,” and they “account for about 47 percent of the city’s more than 95,000 public school children.” Ms. Stein adds that “The funding in the regular education budget for at-risk students amounts to an extra $3,000 each and is intended to alleviate the effects of poverty, which can make learning more challenging. The money could be used to pay for extra reading specialists, music teachers, or extended day programs.”

There have been calls by others, such as the organization DC Students Succeed, to increase the weight in revenue that schools receive for instructing at-risk students through the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula. It is the UPSFF that provides the extra $3,000 per pupil that Ms. Stein references. Mr. Mendelson took a different strategy. Again from the Washington Post article on this issue:

“The funding proposal — which the council must approve a second time as part of the city’s overall budget process — would spread an additional $41.6 million over four years across nearly 170 traditional public and charter schools. Unlike most targeted education funds, the money would bypass the school system’s central office and go directly to principals, giving them control over how to spend money on staff and services that could improve student outcomes.”

Ms. Stein explains how it would work:

“Mendelson’s proposal would give extra funding to schools that have a population of at-risk students that exceeds 40 percent. Schools that have populations of at-risk students that exceed 70 percent would receive even more. For example, Savoy Elementary has 265 students. Of those, 225 — or nearly 85 percent — are considered at risk.

In all, the school would receive more than $98,000 under the proposal. That’s on top of the approximately $3,000 each of the 225 at-risk student is allocated through the typical budget process.”

Mr. Mendelson is trying to address an issue that has plagued the traditional public school system. According to Ms. Stein:

“But numerous investigations and reports have determined that the city often spends this money incorrectly, using it to pay for routine costs instead of on programs to supplement basic school offerings. In some instances, that’s because many schools with high concentrations of at-risk students are under-enrolled and smaller schools are more expensive to operate. These schools’ budgets don’t stretch as far as the budgets for larger schools, so principals end up spending the money on basic staffing that other schools can cover with their baseline budgets.”

Here’s the problem. The 1995 D.C. School Reform Act that created charter schools in the District mandates that funding for all public school students go through the UPSFF. Here’s a summary of the law included in the Adequacy Study completed in 2013:

“The requirement that education for all students be funded on a uniform per-student basis, with the dollars following students into and out of whatever school they attend, was enacted into DC law in 1995. The UPSFF was established to carry out the mandate. The formula calculates funding based on students and their characteristics, not on school or local educational agency (LEA) differences. This uniformity requirement applies only to local funding, not to federal or private funding. It affects only DCPS and public charter school operating budgets, not capital budgets and investments. The UPSFF is intended to fund all traditional school-level and system level operations for which DCPS and public charter schools are responsible, including instructional, non instructional (facilities maintenance and operations), and administrative operations.”

Ms. Perry states in her article that Chairman Mendelson referred to his at-risk student funding proposal “the ‘single most important’ new idea in the fiscal year 2023 budget.” The only problem, however, is that the move is illegal in that it directly contradicts the language contained in the School Reform Act.

But breaking the law is obviously not important to the DC Charter School Alliance as long as it involves more money to its schools. The organization tweeted “Thank you @ChmnMendelson & @councilofdc for supporting students with an increase in funding for education! . . .Creating two new concentration weights to support schools serving higher populations of students designated at-risk”

I noticed that the Council also appropriated $300,000 to perform a new Adequacy Study, which is something I called for the other day. Perhaps this new report will call out the serious error Mr. Mendelson made in his effort to help at-risk students.

D.C. charters about to spend 25K per pupil; they want more

In March, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released her proposed fiscal year 2023 budget. As she has done consistently during her tenure as the city’s chief administrator, Ms. Bowser has increased the Uniform Per Student Funding formula, the baseline that determines how much a school is paid to educate a child for a year, this time by a gigantic 5.87 percent. Her recommendations also include a 2.2 percent jump in the charter school facility allotment. With these augmentations, assuming that the same number of students enroll next term as did in 2022, then the amount that the District spends on teaching one student each term enrolled in a charter school is approximately $24,500. According to the Education Data Initiative, in this country only New York State, at $25,500 per student, spends more.

An organization called DC Students Succeed, a group of over forty groups that work with children, including many charter schools and the DC Charter School Alliance, say the Mayor has not gone far enough. They have a number of recommendations. They call on the Council to add more cash to the UPSFF. The per pupil facility allotment should go up by 3.1 percent. They also want the at-risk weight to improve to 0.37, a number included in the 2013 Adequacy Study, as opposed to the 0.2 number advanced by the Mayor. By the way, the coalition views the term “at-risk” as “pejorative, inaccurate, and inadequate.” They would rather it be changed to “equity weight.”

But wait, there is more. Some schools lack mental health clinicians. A new citywide center is needed for immigrant students so they can navigate our public education system. Increased funding should be allocated for training Black and brown professionals to go into teaching. A program should be created to reduce teacher student loan debt. Initiate a Homeowner Resource Center to steer educators toward affordable housing programs. Form a Public Educator Housing Assistance Program similar to the existing District Employer Assisted Housing Program. Add money to Out-of-School programs to the tune of $25 million. The list is frankly exhausting. You can read the fifteen page details of the requests here.

The calls for more money comes as The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is running television advertisements attacking the U.S. Education Department’s proposed new rules around its charter school support programs. Commented president and CEO Nina Rees, about the move, “This is a sneak attack on charter schools that is politically motivated by special interests seeking to benefit the adults in the system and not the children and families in our country who are clamoring for better education opportunities. Why is the Biden Administration listening to everyone except families?”

If these stipulations are enacted I have no doubt that they will severely limit if not completely block charters from accessing the $440 million annually appropriated by Congress toward new school openings and expansion. However, the commercials make it appear that somehow our movement is entitled to these grants. I would much rather see alternatives to the federal government for financial support. When dependent on the government it is simply too easy for politics to get in the way, which is exactly what we are seeing in this case. The conversation around charters really needs to be focused on improving the quality of public education. With all this talk about money, it appears that the box that the child is standing on to watch the baseball game in the infamous equity cartoon is filled with dollar bills.

D.C. charter schools received $38 million in PPP money

Yesterday, the D.C. Council held an oversight hearing regarding DC Public Schools, the office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, and the charter sector. A few interesting items were brought up in the discussion involving DCPCSB chair Rick Cruz and the organization’s executive director Dr. Michelle Walker-Davis.

First, it was revealed that charters in the nation’s capital have received approximately $38 million in federal government PPP dollars. I have argued in the past that it was wrong for these schools to apply because their funding stream was never disrupted. Here’s some of what I wrote on the subject last July:

“As I drive to work everyday during the week and see all of the businesses that are closed, I think about all of the people now without jobs. My own family has been impacted by the pandemic. To me, taking these extremely limited PPE dollars away from those who are trying to figure out how to put food on the table is nothing less than disgusting.”

However, there is an even more fundamental reason that schools should not take these grants. Remember the FOCUS engineered funding inequity lawsuit? For years charters spoke in value-based terms as to the unfairness of DCPS receiving $100,000 a year in city support that charters could not access. Now the positions are reversed and the traditional schools were prevented from applying for the federal program because they are part of the government and not individual LEA’s. So what did many charters do when faced with this dilemma? They took the extra cash.

This is in addition to the millions of dollars in revenue charters will receive from the Covid-related recovery bills Congress has passed and the extra money Mayor Muriel Bowser has included in her proposed fiscal year 2022 budget. I cannot keep up with all the funding. It should be noted that D.C.’s largest charter networks like KIPP DC PCS and Friendship PCS could not participate in the PPP because they have more than 500 employees.

What happened to the days when charters did the difficult but right thing and set a shining example for others to follow?

One final observation. Council chairman Phil Mendelson asked the charter representatives if they have heard anything about replacement for vacant DC PCSB board seats. As I wrote about the other day, Steve Bumbaugh’s term expired. It turns out that Naomi Shelton’s tenure has also ended but the thought on Tuesday was that she would be re-nominated. I’m not so sure. During one of the recent DC PCSB meetings a member of the public testified that Ms. Shelton should be prevented from voting on the approval of Wildflower PCS’s school applications due to a conflict of interest. The board investigated the complaint with the appropriate agency and determined that the charge was baseless. The discussion resulted in Ms. Shelton providing a long impassioned polemic regarding her work on the board.

If the Mayor needs a nominee for the DC PCSB I just want to mention that I am available.

D.C. public school awash in cash

Last Thursday, D.C. Mayor Bowser announced her recommended public school funding for the fiscal 2022 school year, although her formal budget is not due to the Council now until the end of May. Her press release regarding the spending plan boasts that her administration is now allocating “more than $2 billion to serve an estimated 98,528 students in DC’s traditional public schools and public charter schools.”

The main increase comes from raising the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula by 3.6 percent. The Washington Post’s Perry Stein indicated that the base that each school receives per student would go from $11,310 to $11,720. The Mayor also enlarges the at-risk student weight and the weight for English Language Learners, while creating a new at-risk weight for adult students still in high school.

These local dollars come on top of $386 million from the U.S. Congress’ American Rescue Plan, with DCPS receiving approximately $191 million, and charters getting $156 million.

There was no news on the charter school facility fund front. Please recall that the DC Charter School Alliance called for a 3.1 percent increase in this $3,408 figure and continued 3.1 percent jumps over the next five years.

All of these dollars come with a significant catch. In her announcement of the school budget Ms. Bowser stated that “in the fall of 2021, she expects all public schools in Washington, DC to fully open for in-person learning, five days a week, with all educators back in the classroom.”

I sense a frustration by our city’s chief executive that the District is not further along in re-opening schools. According to Ms. Stein only twelve percent of pupils have returned to class. But with people getting vaccinated against Covid-19 at a faster pace here in D.C., I don’t see how reaching her target will be an issue.

When most students return to learn in physical buildings it will be about 17 months since they have been taught in person. Then the job of bringing them back to academic grade level begins. Will money be a sufficient means for reaching this goal? Not if the past provides any clues.

With no hope of D.C. charter funding equity with DCPS, the alternative sector should change course

Not widely known is that the FOCUS engineered lawsuit brought by Washington Latin PCS, Eagle Academy PCS, and the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools ended quietly in July of 2019 when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed the legal action on the grounds that the case did not belong in federal court. The original action was brought in part because of an analysis by Mary Levy that found that between the 2008 and 2012 school years the traditional schools received between $72 million and $127 million annually in funding outside of the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula to which charters did not have access. As stipulated in the School Reform Act, all revenue for public school funding must come through the UPSFF.

So now what? Should a new court case be started? This would be my preference but in reality I recognize that the chances of a sequel are nil. FOCUS, who organized the past effort, is no more, replaced by the DC Charter School Alliance. One of the plaintiffs, the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools, also ended operating, being melded into the Alliance. I sense that with charters struggling to open in the face of the pandemic, a fight with the city is about the last thing these institutions want to concentrate on.

I’m calling for a new strategy, one that is already in play. What I’m seeing is that the Alliance is actively seeking assistance from city agencies. Take for example, this recent testimony by founding executive director Shannon Hodge before the D.C. Council’s Committee on Health:

“First, in November, charter school leaders laid out what schools needed from city officials that would enable schools to safely bring more students back to building for in-person learning. We asked the city to provide equitable access to health-related services, including providing at least one nurse or medical professional in every school building who could serve all students, teachers, and staff on site. We also asked for asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. But more importantly, we asked for DC Health to provide clear, updated orders and public health guidance to enable schools to provide quality in-person learning environments for more students during the pandemic. The city responded. DC Health updated public health guidance, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) issued a Frequently Asked Questions document for school leaders, and public charter schools now have access to the city’s asymptomatic testing program. As a result, we have more students in charter school buildings.”

The 2013 Adequacy Study, that the Alliance likes to quote, called out all of the money that DCPS receives to which charters do not receive. This includes “Teacher Pensions,” “Educational Furnishings and Equipment,” “Information Technology Services and Equipment,” “Risk Management, Legal Services, and Settlement,” “General Maintenance—Buildings and Grounds,” “Custodial Services,” and “Utilities.”

Instead of trying to have the Mayor and city council increase funding to charters to cover these expenses, charters should demand that these services also be proved to charters. The argument is simple. It is a matter of equity.

Now I can hear the counterargument in my mind already. Many charter leaders will state that they don’t want things like housekeeping provided by the D.C. government; they believe that it will be done better by the vendor of their choosing. My response to this line of reasoning is that it is fine. Don’t take the help if you don’t want it. But in these times of fiscal restraints the option of charters to take advantage of these offerings could allow the reallocation of expenditures toward augmenting the instructional program.

Moreover, who in the nation’s capital in 2021 could possibly be against equity?

Important lesson for D.C. More money does not improve academic results

This morning I’m missing the CATO Institute’s Andrew Coulson who unfortunately passed away from brain cancer in 2016 at the age of 48. When he was alive, Mr. Coulson loved to share data when talking about the subject of public education. His most famous graph is reprinted below:

Media Name: Cato-tot-cost-scores-Coulson-Sept-2012-sm.gif

It shows that despite tremendous increases in government spending for decades, public school student test scores have not improved. In some cases, they have in fact declined. The subject is important and timely since at the end of this month D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser will released her proposed FY 2022 budget. Already, various constituencies are lining up to argue for additional dollars, needs which I’m sure have been heightened due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The public schools I’m sure will make a strong case for more taxpayer funds and already the DC Charter School Alliance has argued that both charters and the regular schools need more than $50 million from the previous year.

We need to keep Andrew Coulson’s work in our thoughts.

I guess my mind is wandering but I’m also thinking about the FOCUS-engineered lawsuit against the Mayor that argued that charter school revenue from the city is inequitable compared to what DCPS receives. What is the status of this cause? When FOCUS disappeared did the court case go away as well? I bring this up because in testimony before the D.C. Council Committee of the Whole yesterday the Alliance’s founding executive director Shannon Hodge, as well as making her points about needing more cash, also asked for more government assistance. She argued (and I’m quoting from the testimony):

  • The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) should expand its summer offerings for students to help re-engage students, provide options for families, and alleviate pressure on already exhausted teachers and school staff.
  • The Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) should:
    • Provide internet access for adult students and students who are undocumented;
    • Better communicate with families, especially about how they can directly contact OCTO’s Internet for All program;
    • Provide better internet quality, speed, and connectivity, because households with multiple children and working parents suffer most from poor internet quality;
    • Provide help desk support in other languages;
    • Develop a citywide technical support system; 
    • Clarify whether OCTO or the City will reimburse schools for hotspots and data connectivity they’ve purchased directly; and
    • Articulate a plan for how OCTO will continue to support internet access next school year.
  • The DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) should:
    • Coordinate with the Kids Ride Free Program on a COVID safety campaign to encourage mask wearing, social distancing, and other coronavirus mitigation strategies on public transportation; and
    • Work with schools to improve its communications around projects that are located near schools. 
  • The Department of General Services (DGS) should regularly update charter schools on projects that affect the functioning of their schools and have a point of contact for school leaders.  

There is of course, nothing inherently wrong with these suggestions. But I recall that the main theme of the FOCUS lawsuit was that the traditional schools receive services from the Wilson Building that charter schools cannot access. Perhaps that whole issue has now disappeared?

D.C. Charter School Alliance asks the Mayor for millions; let’s go another route

A February 10th letter from Shannon Hodge, the founding executive director of the D.C. Charter School Alliance, addressed to Mayor Muriel Bowser and Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn, lays out a detailed wish list of additional funding for both charters and DCPS as part of the FY 2022 budget. Here are the recommendations:

● Increase the UPSFF foundation level by 4% to partially close the gap between current funding levels and the recommended levels from the 2013 DC Education Adequacy Study.
● Increase the facilities allotment by 3.1% to ensure that charter schools continue to receive funds needed to secure and maintain school buildings.
● Increase the at-risk funding weight to .37, the level recommended in the 2013 adequacy study, to direct needed funds to our students most in need of targeted interventions and support.
● Provide $6.4M to expand the Department of Behavioral Health’s school-based mental health program, which will enable 80 additional schools to address student and family mental health needs that instability and loss during the last year have likely exacerbated.
● Increase the English learner weight to .61, the level recommended in the 2013 adequacy study, to support undocumented students who are often excluded from receiving other financial supports due to lack of documentation.

In addition, Ms. Hodge seeks a couple of “legislative adjustments” which will also add to the educational funding stream:

● Create a statutory requirement for review of the definition of “at-risk” under the DC Code to ensure the definition appropriately captures the students in need of additional funding support.
● Continue the automatic escalation of facilities funding for public charter schools with a 3.1% annual increase for each of the next five years to ensure continuity of funding for charter school facilities.

The justification for all of this added public funding is, of course, a continuing effort to close the academic achievement gap between the affluent and poor. The letter states that “While our students have made significant improvements over the years, our investments have not yet produced the education outcomes necessary for every part of our city to thrive. And with COVID-19 disproportionately affecting low-income communities, even more is needed to close opportunity gaps.”

I asked the Alliance for an estimate of the impact on the city’s budget if all of the above requests were granted. There was no response. Therefore, I did a little back-of-the-envelope analysis of my own. The Uniform Per Student Funding Formula’s current base to pay for teaching one pupil a year is $11,310. The four percent increase would bring this number to $11,762. Applying this new payment to 94,412 students leads to $42.7 million in new spending per year. On the charter school facility side, a student generates $3,408 in revenue a year. Bringing this number up by 3.1 percent would generate another $4.6 million in costs. So between the two changes we are talking about around $50 million more annually for public education while recognizing that Washington, D.C., according to Ms. Hodge, “enjoys one of the highest per-pupil allocations for education funding in the country.”

I know it has been an exceptionally challenging twelve months when it comes to instructing our children. The pandemic has brought massive new costs in personal protective equipment, laptops, and other equipment and supplies. But then again, Ms. Bowser last December awarded $10 million dollars to charters to cover these costs. This comes on top of a $16 million grant from the federal government tied to increasing literacy for disadvantaged students. Let’s also not forget contributions schools have received from the DC Education Equity Fund. It’s really hard to keep up with all of this spending.

It is also not as if the Mayor has not been providing educational resources to the charter and traditional school sectors. Since Ms. Bowser came into office in 2015, I cannot recall a time when the UPSFF was not increased as part of the annual budget cycle.

Therefore, I think its more than fair to ask what we have received for this level of financial commitments? I’ll save you the drumroll. The District of Columbia has one of the nation’s largest academic achievement gaps at about 60 points. In addition, despite the heroic efforts of teachers and education leaders, it has not budged for decades.

Therefore, I really think it’s time to try something different. Let’s convert all the traditional schools to charters. In addition, the DC Public Charter School Board must approve more charter operators in the city. Simultaneously, now that Scott Pearson is no longer the board’s executive director, his successor Dr. Michelle Walker-Davis needs to figure out how to provide the schools under her jurisdiction the freedom that they enjoyed when these alternative schools were first created in the nation’s capital.

This terrible pandemic has taught us that we cannot continue to conduct our business as we have in the past. Let’s apply this lesson to the city’s education budget.

Mayor Bowser should provide D.C. charters with funds to cover crisis costs

Today, the Washington Post’s Perry Stein writes that some charter schools are considering applying for funds under the recently approved federal CARES Act. From her article:

“The $2 trillion federal relief package finalized last week, officially known as the CARES Act, includes nearly $350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, a small-business loan program. The program incentivizes small businesses with fewer than 500 employees to keep their workers by covering about two months of paychecks for employees who make less than $100,000 annually. The businesses can have their loans forgiven if they avoid layoffs or pay cuts.”

I sit on the board of a nonprofit that intends to apply for PPP dollars because the money that normally supports this organization is not expected to come in. The result is that employees will almost certainly have to be furloughed. This appears to me to be the perfect use of the program. I imagine that businesses that have had to shutdown like restaurants and small stores whose employees are currently out of work would benefit from this aid.

However, charter schools are not in similar situations. They receive their money from the city government and that revenue stream is not expected to be interrupted.

This is not to say that charters are not currently experiencing a financial bind. Most are proving free breakfast and lunch to their students. In addition, schools have provided computers to pupils and internet access so that they can participate in distance learning.

According to Ms. Perry, the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools and Scott Pearson, the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board, have encouraged charters to submit a PPP application.

The Post reporter includes this comment by Mr. Pearson on the issue:

“There is a lot of uncertainty about the city budget. . . Absent of something like this program, we should expect layoffs from public charter schools, and the whole point of this program is to prevent these layoffs.”

I’m not so sure about the uncertainty. The District of Columbia had an estimated $500 million surplus at the end of its 2019 fiscal year. I think in a time of crisis Mayor Bowser and the D.C. Council should figure out how to come to the aid of these schools.

As we know, support for our public schools, both charters and DCPS, by law must come through the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula. However, I do not foresee a problem with establishing a special emergency grant plan that all schools could access. Already, a coalition of nonprofits and individuals have established the DC Education Equity Fund to assist schools with technology needs in the face of the coronavirus. The city could certainly augment this effort.

Desperate times require our representatives to provide strong leadership. By utilizing the city’s significant budget surplus to assist schools during this period we could let the federal government provide aid to those who no longer are receiving a paycheck.

Finally, a creative solution for D.C.’s charter school facility crises

Former D.C. Mayor and chief executive officer of the Federal City Council Anthony Williams had an editorial in yesterday’s Washington Post calling for several “investments” on our public schools. The column is timed to influence current D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s upcoming proposed 2021 fiscal year budget. Mr. Williams argues for stabilization of the 2.2 percent increase in the charter school facility allotment that was provided to schools last year, an at-risk student admission preference, an increase in the at-risk weighting in the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula, and a four percent across the board increase in the UPSFF.

The suggestions contained in the piece mirror those included in an “Open Letter to Mayor Bowser, Chairman Mendelson and the DC Council on 2020 Education Priorities” dated January 28, 2020 that is signed by 38 charter and public school advocacy group leaders, although these individuals state that they are writing on behalf of themselves and not their organizations. The letter supplements the recommendations of Mr. Williams, stating that the UPSFF at-risk student weighting should go up to 0.37 and remarks that the at-risk admission preference by schools be voluntary.

Both Mr. Williams and the Open Letter contain a intriguing incentive to increase charter school co-locations with traditional schools. As stated in the Post piece:

“We should also encourage more efficient use of existing public school buildings, including incentivizing co-locations of DCPS and public charter schools. One way to do that is by dedicating a portion of rent paid by a public charter school to the school-level budget of the “host” DCPS school. Doing so would provide resources for these schools schools without increasing the District’s overall budget while providing high-quality learning environments to more public school students. That is a true win-win.”

There you have it. The most promising positive suggestion regarding the stifling charter school facility shortage that I have seen in my 20 years of involvement in this movement. This concept desperately needs to be included in Ms. Bowser’s upcoming budget. In addition, she, together with the Deputy Mayor for Education, need to make co-location of charters with DCPS a priority of their school building utilization efforts going forward.

Now that we have a first step toward breaking the deadlock for charter classroom space what else can be done? Can the city provide developers a financial incentive to include schools in their projects? Can charters get first crack at properties that are condemned?

Here is one thing that should happen starting today. The Bowser Administration must follow the law and turn over vacant surplus DCPS building to them for their immediate use.