Accounting For Public Exclusion

This blog post is accounting for how you are not a part of DC’s public schools, even if you think and believe you are.

Last week, I discovered that no one in the public can anymore view the June 2017 charter board meeting, because the video was accidentally destroyed.

Several summers ago, in this blog, I had linked to the video recording of that hearing, because I was highlighting a point after the 4-hour mark, when many parents at Mundo Verde protested the creation of a second campus for the school, which the school’s board and administrators supported.

What I was trying to do, in 2019, was verify my memory of that video. I had recalled distinctly that at least one of the staff members testifying about the Mundo Verde expansion said something about the school having to expand in order for it to remain fiscally viable.

I remember laughing, thinking it sounded like a Ponzi scheme. Really: the only way the school could stay afloat was if it just kept taking students on (and all the money they bring) and thus stayed one step ahead of creditors?

But when I recently went to the charter board website for that meeting, the video link was missing–and the link I had in my blog post no longer worked. After asking charter board staff, I was told that the video was a victim of the charter board’s video provider (at some unspecified point in time) accidentally deleting all videos of charter board meetings prior to January 2018.

I was also told that there are transcripts of meetings, so no worries.

But not all charter board meetings on the charter board website have transcripts, which are usually done by an unbiased third party, which basically records everything said exactly as it was said. (Think court reporters.)

Some charter board meetings, like this one, have instead minutes listed on the charter board website. That’s fine and well for a good sense of what was discussed and said.

But minutes are not the same thing as a transcript, because the people taking minutes are not themselves third parties and are paraphrasing, not quoting.

With the destruction of those videos, there now appears nothing left of that June 2017 official meeting of an official DC government body except for those meeting minutes–so I cannot verify my memory of what was actually said, because what is in the minutes doesn’t capture it.

Worse, this accident only came to light because I looked for that video, couldn’t find it, remembered seeing it, and asked about it–and am writing about it now.

[Confidential to the DC city council & mayor: Can you please tell me

–When was the charter board going to let the public know that these videos are never coming back–or is this blog post the public notice, in which case shouldn’t you be paying me some of their salaries?

–Is there a plan in place to always have a transcription service for these meetings in the event that video is lost, stolen, eaten by dog, clawed by cat, etc.?

–And how is it that we are in a place where any DC citizen has to ask these questions?]

For all the talk of the “burden” of FOIA to charter schools, no one is accounting for the burden to the public of not knowing what was, and is, done in its name by the very agencies the public pays to oversee our schools.

This reminds me of when I recently discovered, in an unrelated FOIA production, that the charter board had told the very schools it regulates to lobby against a law it didn’t want.

See here:

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Tell me: in whose name is this being done?

Amazingly, the charter board is not alone: We have seen it again and again and yet again with DCPS, with at least several of these examples openly flouting DC laws put into place to protect the public and its interests in our schools.

So please, tell me: in whose name is this being done?

We now have a chance to start leveling this (very tilted) playing field, with a bill to ensure that our charter schools are subject to open meetings requirements and FOIA.

But our city council has excluded it from a June 26 hearing on transparency in our schools. How is this even possible?

Look again at that email above–and then ask:

Did the charter board tell the schools it regulates to lobby against that transparency bill? If so, how would individual citizens like me, who support it, fare in that effort against more than a hundred schools, their employees, and paid lobbyists flooding our city council in opposition to it even being part of a hearing?

To begin an accounting for how the public is thusly excluded from DC’s public schools, I have put below a list of items that our charter sector falls short on, whether through inaction or opposition by the charter board. This begins to give us not only an historical perspective, but also a way to understand just how hard DC public school officials seem to work in what appears to be their own interests. Please add to the list in the comments.

And be sure to sign up for the June 26 hearing, to demand that ALL bills on transparency in our schools are considered in this council session–and voted on. See more information here and sign up here for the hearing.

DC’s Charter Sector Falling Short On . . .  

1. Youth Suicide Act

2. Enforcement of suspension rules

3. Lower levels of lead in water

4. Vetting of education providers for private placements

5. Equity in school breakfast programs

6. Meeting national or DC preK standards

7. Meeting PE requirements

8. Following the Open Meetings Act (see here and here–ironically, the second link here concerns that June 2017 board meeting)

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