Friday, June 06, 2008

DC Council moves to limit charters, charters fight back

DC Council members Vincent C. Gray, Tommy Wells and Harry Thomas Jr., with the support of Marion Barry, Mary Cheh, Yvette Alexander, Kwame R. Brown and David A. Catania have introduced legislation to change oversight rules around the District's public charter schools.
The bill proposes making the members direct mayoral appointees with a District residency requirement, a move likely to attract congressional scrutiny.

Other parts:
  • A requirement to match quarterly payments to charters to enrollment figures, making sure money better follows the movement of students between schools
  • A required 15-month planning period for new charter schools. Virtually every charter school has followed this to date; the grand exception, of course, is the pending Center City application, which would convert seven Catholic schools to charters in only three months.
  • A requirement to open only a single campus upon a school’s initial chartering (also a poke at the parochial schools), and, as a corollary to that, a requirement that a charter school meet certain academic benchmarks before expanding.
In his remarks, Wells made the point that charters schools were intended to be places of “innovation and best practices” in educational methods. “Failure to make adequate yearly process in five years is not a best practice,” he said.
As you can imagine the supporters of charter schools aren't too keen on the legislation.
The city’s main pro-charter group, Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS), is planning a Wilson Building press conference tomorrow morning, to be followed by a door-to-door lobbying tour of the hallways, where politicos will be given copies of a pro-charter petition signed by 5,700 charter supporters. The petition, according to a press release, “asks the mayor and Council to continue to let the parents decide how many charter schools are open in D.C.”
More in the Post.

My take: like most institutions in the District's government the DC Council likes to wield power. Since the Mayor's office has effectively taken control of the District's public school system this and the move to bring the Office of State Superintendent of Education under its influence are the Council's way of trying to reassert its influence. Will this actually improve education in the District? Probably not. Does the DC Council care? Probably not. They just want power.

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