The following letter to the editor, Put controls in place regarding the approval of new D.C. public charters, appeared online in the Washington Post on March 27, 2015.
In the March 22 Local Opinions commentary “Why charters need traditional schools,” the executive director and the former chairman of the D.C. Public Charter School Board claimed, “We believe that the balance we have, with a thriving public charter sector and strong traditional schools, is about right.” It is unclear what they believe should happen now that “the balance . . . is about right.”
It seems clear that the charter board won’t stop approving new schools. It has approved an average of six a year. The District has 112 public charter schools, and three will open this fall. One, Washington Global Middle School, will open about a third of a mile from Jefferson Middle School and offer a substantially similar program. In May, the board will vote on whether to open six more schools in 2016. The balance won’t be “about right” for long.
Parents and public education supporters have been advocating for joint planning by D.C. Public Schools and the D.C. Public Charter School Board before charter schools are opened. Many believe we are spreading our education dollars too thin by opening charter schools that duplicate the services found in existing schools.
It is up to the D.C. Council and the mayor to require comprehensive planning before District taxpayers are asked to fund the opening of public charter schools.