D.C. Charter Schools (And Young Black Students) Under Attack By Pro-Union Democrat

A new bill put forward by a District of Columbia councilman would open up charter schools in the district to unnecessary regulations and requirements that other public schools aren’t forced to endure.

Public school students in the District enroll in two types of public school. About half of them are enrolled in the city-run school system, D.C. Public Schools. The other half are educated at tuition-free, taxpayer-funded public charter schools. These are open to all District-resident students regardless of neighborhood or academic ability. Charters operate independently of DCPS and are held to strong academic, school governance and legal standards by D.C.’s independent charter board, which is in turn appointed by D.C.’s mayor and Council.

Councilmember [Charles] Allen’s legislation would intervene in the space between the District’s charter schools and their regulator, the charter board. Allen’s anti-charter supporters say greater accountability for public charter schools would be achieved by compelling autonomous charters to provide public records requests and comply with open meeting laws, which under D.C. law apply to the charter board but not to individual charter schools.

The controversial legislation also would require charters to disclose non-public fundraising; publish all employees’ names and salaries; accept teacher and student-appointed representatives on boards; and list all school contracts, regardless of amount. Charters would not be compensated for the costs of implementing these requirements, or for the consequences of disclosing the currently-confidential information of staff and contractors. Compliance would therefore require schools to divert scarce schooling resources for information that does nothing to increase or improve student access.

D.C.’s charter schools are ranked ninth in the nation and they are great schools for kids, making them highly-sought schools in the area. That concerns the pro-union advocates who see charters as a threat to public schools – and therefore union income.

This attack, like so many others, only has one impact on education: It directly harms black students.

Charter schools (and really school choice in general) are a major topic in the discussion of education reform because they do what public schools can’t. They provide better educational opportunities for young black students, offer them a chance to get out of failing schools, and levels the playing field with rich, white kids whose parents put them into expensive private schools to keep them out of the “general population.”

Those interested in maintaining education’s status quo – which, make no mistake, is what they’re advocating – do so largely from the mistaken belief that charter schools exist solely to turn a profit. In truth, it is when these schools do well in preparing kids and helping them become successful that the true monetary concern becomes clear: These people don’t care about charter schools making a profit. They are concerned that public schools and teachers unions won’t make enough.

Getting rid of opportunities for charter students (particularly black students in charter schools) only benefits the already privileged.