Putting out a contract on charters

D.C. charter schools took two hits this week. On Sunday, the Post reported that only two of seven charter schools seeking to lease space in underused public school buildings will be given the opportunity to do so - a serious problem considering that charter schools are hard-pressed to afford facilities in the city's buzzing real estate market (especially when they are significantly underfunded compared to D.C.'s traditional public schools, as a forthcoming Fordham report will show). Despite the fact that Washington charters are supposed to have a legal preference over other applicants for unused school buildings, a review panel charged with making facilities decisions rejected applications for space (including five of the charter applications) that they deemed "incompatible with the traditional public schools," and instead handed the extra space to the D.C. housing authority and police department. Brainstorm: let's put all our cops in schools and our kids in jail. Meanwhile, Wednesday's Post reported the latest No Child Left Behind results for D.C. charters. The story's lede appears sobering, if not scandalous: "Only eight of 31 charter school campuses under the D.C. Public Charter School Board made adequate yearly progress." But read on and you will find that most of the other schools were too small to have scores to report and just ten actually failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress. Surely ten is too many and eight too few; we heartily support all efforts to boost charter performance (like this), including swiftly denying bad schools the capacity to inflict further damage. But it's too soon for charter opponents to pronounce the failure of the charter school movement. Oh wait, silly us, it's never too soon! Gina Arlotto, president of Save Our Schools, responded: "We are crushing our neighborhood schools at the expense of an experiment that is failing." Excuse us, Ms. Arlotto: what say ye about the more than half of the city's 181 traditional schools that are in the same boat?

"Charters Dismayed by Slow Start of Plan to Share Schools," V. Dion Haynes, The Washington Post, August 7, 2005

"D.C. Charter School Data Show 8 Attain Benchmark," V. Dion Haynes, The Washington Post, August 10, 2005