WASHINGTON, D.C. – A recent editorial by the Washington Post highlights the unfair advantage traditional government schools hold over public charter schools in the nation’s capital.
The Post points to a study released by the Walton Family Foundation that shows spending on traditional public school students averaged $13,000 more in 2011 than spending on charter school students, despite a law that requires all students to be treated equally.
D.C. school board members have also made it difficult for charter school operators to find building space in the city, according to the Post.
The education establishment’s effort to keep promising charter schools out of D.C. is a problem that plagues many school districts across the nation. Many public school boards are given the power to approve or block new charter schools within their boundaries, and often reject applications to limit competition, usually with the support from local teachers unions.
“D.C. law mandates equity between the two sectors, but charter school advocates have long complained that the Uniform Per Pupil Spending Formula is implemented in a way that allows the city to funnel more capital and operating funds to the legacy school system,” according to the Post editorial.
“A study last year by Mary Levy, a longtime analyst of public education in the District, found that charters were underfunded by about $1,500 to $2,500 per student in operating funds and $3,000 per student in facilities funds,” according to the editorial. “Most unfair has been the District’s reluctance, if not refusal, to make shuttered schools available to charters; the difficulty KIPP DC is experiencing in finding new facilities to accommodate its top-performing high school is evidence of the District’s indifference.”
There is hope on the horizon, however. D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray has contracted with a research firm to find ways to improve the district’s funding policies, and recently named Abigail Smith deputy mayor of education.
“Ms. Smith, in charge of school transformation for former chancellor Michelle Rhee and former chair of the top performing E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, understands the need for the city to use its resources in a way that best serves student interests,” according to the Post.
Serving students should be any school district’s top concern. D.C. charter school students are outperforming their public school counterparts, and thousands of Washington students are on waiting lists to attend charter schools. It’s a similar story in other school districts with high performing charter schools.
Clearly, charter schools are making a difference. Parents value school choice and are demanding alternatives to government schools.
We echo the Post’s conclusion regarding the treatment of charter schools:
“It’s time (to) give them their financial due.”