the rest of us in DC are left to ponder the many actual–and urgent–cross sector issues, such as
—Misleading (and noncompliant) data for public school capacity and utilizations;
–The misalignment between 5th and 6th grades in charter and DCPS middle schools such that enrollment is decimated in DCPS elementaries at 5th grade;
–Schools in disrepair and not having work done anytime soon (see this list of recent open work orders for just Ward 6 DCPS schools)–and yet having to market themselves actively to maintain enrollment (and thus their budgets and modernization priority);
–Millions of education dollars wasted or unaccounted for: i.e., more than half of the $35 million allocated in FY16 for at risk students in DC charter schools; $20 million for DCPS’s student tracking system that cost a fraction of that; Ellington’s ballooning renovation budget that ensures other schools are ignored; and DCPS food services costing more than they should;
–No accounting (or even discussion) of the cost of school closures: Since 1996, when charter schools started in DC, 65 DCPS and 38 charter schools have closed, an average of 5 DC public schools closed per year for 20 years running;
–No accounting (or even discussion) of the uncoordinated growth of schools: In 1999, DC had 185 public schools serving 74,800 students, and in 2014 had 223 public schools serving 85,400 students, a growth rate in 15 years of 20% for the number of schools and only 14% for the number of students–with some new schools placed adjacent to existing ones serving the same populations. (Data from the NRC report and the 21st Century Schools Fund.);
–The rationing of resources (school nurses, anyone?) to accommodate that longstanding 6% mismatch between growth in the number of schools versus number of students–all the while many existing schools have excess seats as new schools are created every year without a commensurate growth in the population;
–The fallacy that test scores mean anything beyond each individual student’s performance, even as our public schools are promoted by those very scores (and when the most commonly reported math scores in our middle schools are for different tests at the same grade combined as one score);
–The ongoing (and persistent) high attrition rates at both charter and DCPS schools; and
–No clear explanation for, or understanding of, mobility rates, despite the cross sector task force devoting several meetings this summer to student mobility–and despite evidence that such mobility harms our city’s most vulnerable students.
And yet, despite these urgent issues that affect every single public school in DC, the cross sector task force at its next meeting this coming Tuesday October 25 (6 pm, 2235 Shannon Place SE) will be again discussing–wait for it–making charter schools by right, prior to rolling this proposal out to the community sometime this fall.
(Hmm, wonder how that works? Oh, that’s how.)