Last week it was revealed that D.C.'s Attorney General Irvin Nathan found that the $6 million dollars allocated by the Council for a permanent facility for the D.C. International Public Charter School could not be spent because the new charter is a non-profit entity, not part of the local government.
But this decision goes directly against the School Reform Act and 17 years of practice.
D.C.'s charter school law, passed in 1995, was thought and continues to be viewed as innovative in that it included a facility allotment separate from the per pupil funds to operate the school. This money has been utilized by charter schools to rent space. As the charter school movement matured, schools began signing long term leases or purchasing their own buildings to obtain permanent sites. The facility allotment then became the source of funds, in addition to meeting the obligations to landlords or banks, to renovate classrooms. If the Council cannot provide capital money for charter schools then Mr. Nathan's rule has been broken almost from the time the first charter opened in Washington, D.C.
As I've explained, the problem I have with the special allocation to D.C. International is that all charter schools are not being treated equally when it comes to receiving this resource. But the opinion by the Attorney General makes no sense. My suspicion is that Mr. Nathan's conclusion is political in nature. The money for the new bilingual middle and high school would be a tremendous victory for Councilman Catania, who on multiple instances has hinted he will challenge Mr. Gray if the current Mayor wins the upcoming Democratic nomination. Support for my view comes from the speed in which Mayor Gray agreed with the Attorney General's report on the matter.
I certainly hope this is not the case because it would mean that politics is having a negative impact on children enrolled in charter schools. But then again, in D.C., we have not known it any other way.