I know that the DC Public Charter School Board, operating under the School Reform Act, has the power to close charters based upon poor academic performance, financial irregularities, a failure to meet its goals, and a violation of applicable laws. However, the mandates that it has been imposing on charters go way beyond a reasonable definition of oversight. For examples, let’s just consider some of the demands placed on schools at last Monday night’s monthly meeting. I want you to know that these are the actual conditions that the specified charters need to meet in order to continue to operate.
Imposed on Democracy Prep PCS during its five-year review:
“The school must achieve a PMF score of at least 40 for SY 2018-19 on a modified one-year PMF, with all measures using only SY 2018-19 outcomes and no re-enrollment rate, as calculated by DC PCSB, OR must improve by at least 15 points on the standard PK8 PMF between SY 2017-18 and 2018-19. If the school fails to meet at least one of these targets, it will close at the end of SY 2019-20.”
Imposed on Harmony PCS during its five-year review:
“Harmony DC PCS must decrease its enrollment ceiling from 480 students to a maximum of 250 students, and submit a five-year budget to describe how the school will remain economically viable with such enrollment; and Given the cost of the school’s turnaround and the reliance on philanthropic funds that largely come from a single source to pay for this turnaround, Harmony DC PCS must provide evidence that at least $500K per year has been secured for SY 2018-19 and SY 2019-20.”
Imposed on LEARN PCS during its application process to open a new school:
“By May 15, 2019, the school will develop and submit a plan to engage non-military connected families in DC (especially Ward 8). The plan will include i. reliable, recent, and comprehensive data demonstrating that there will be sufficient demand among non-military families to sustain the school, and ii. a description of recruiting strategies that have been successful either in DC or other jurisdictions with competitive charter markets serving a similar target population.”
“Enrollment—due to the mixed historical performance of LEARN schools, and lower quality and lack of demand at LEARN 10, enrollment at LEARN DC will be limited to the current enrollment numbers of LEARN 10. . .”
“The school’s opening year may have a maximum enrollment of 180. Enrollment each year may grow by 45 students to a maximum enrollment of 495 students.”
“By December 14, 2018, the school will sign an agreement committing that the following condition will be included in the school’s charter: If the performance on the PMF at the five-year review is below and average of 40%, the school agrees to relinquish its charter. If the school earns a Tier 3 in any three of five years, the school will relinquish its charter.”
And here is my personal favorite:
“The LEARN Network will open no additional schools until at least one year after the opening of LEARN DC.”
The PCSB is now dictating what this charter management organization can and cannot do on a national level in order to open in D.C. If I was running this school, and if I wholeheartedly believe in school choice for those much less fortunate than myself, and if a vital part of my sworn mission is to provide a high quality education for the offspring of men and women who sacrifice their lives for the protection of this country, I would tell the board “no.” Actually I would tell them “hell no.”
However, this is what our local movement has become. Autonomy and accountability. But the autonomy part is disappearing.