EDITORIAL: Stability Must Be the First Requirement in Charter School Business

As D.C. school students approach the end to another school year, what still has not ended is the instability impacting their academic lives due to another round of school closings among D.C. Public Charter Schools. Long gone are the days when parents moved into a neighborhood, expecting to send their children to a good neighborhood school, that fed into other good schools, that laid the foundation for matriculation on to higher education or work.

“School Choice” is the moniker education reform advocates sold to legislators who in turn sold to parents as the means of ensuring a quality education for all children. Charters were the answer, they claimed, and they began popping up all over the place providing what they promised — another choice for parents and students.

But in the past four years, the D.C. Public Charter School Board, in its sole discretion, has opened 25 new charter schools, while closing 26. That is a far cry from a record of success. Today, according to DCPCSB, there are 123 public charter schools operated by 66 non-profits. Ten new charter school applications are scheduled for review at the DCPCSB’s meeting in April.

In January, the DCPCSB announced the closure of four charter schools in Wards 7 and 8 and a fifth in Ward 5. They include National Collegiate Prep High School (Ward 8) set to close by the end of the 2019-20 school year, SEED D.C. middle school set to close in 2020, along with Democracy Prep (Ward 8) set to close at the end of June, Cesar Chavez School of Public Policy (Ward 7) and City Arts & Prep PC (Ward 5). That equates to more than 2,000 soon-to-be displaced students facing limited choices next school year with many – many of them growing accustomed to being bounced around between charter schools that were forced to close.

While D.C. has some great schools, public and charter, stability remains the missing essential that parents and students need and deserve.

The mayor and council members should closely observe the actions of the DCPCSB and exercise oversight if the growth of families in the District is to be sustained. Wealthier parents can exercise their school choice by relocating to another jurisdiction that provides better quality and higher-performing public schools. But it’s our at-risk and most impoverished children who have to endure this school choice game that’s being played out at the expense of their education and ultimately their lives.

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