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Charter coordination with DCPS would end school reform

The Washington Post's Emma Brown reports that during a six hour D.C. Council hearing to discuss the Deputy Mayor for Education's school boundary proposal several individuals mentioned that charters must be part of the equation before final decisions are made. One of those critical of a lack of coordination was DCPS Chancellor Henderson, who, according to Ms. Brown, pointed to the fact that "a new science- and technology-focused charter school recently decided to move in across the street from a traditional school that emphasizes science and technology." This type of coordination would kill the local charter school movement.

First, Ms. Henderson's comment ignores the reality of the intractable problem of charters locating facilities in which to operate. Thank goodness this new charter found a site. Many have not been able to solve this issue which has unfortunately meant the end of the existence of some schools, while others have had to severely curtail their programs due to the lack of affordable classroom space. It would also be better not to even discuss the quantity of time these alternative schools spend searching for buildings. The energy the entire process sucks out charters sometimes results in board of directors meetings more resembling those of a real estate company rather than an academic institution.

The other problem with Ms. Henderson's view is that it seems as if she wants the competition for students that has forced her school system to improve to simply go away. The concept of school choice exactly mirrors the situation the Chancellor describes. Let a science and technology charter open directly across the street from one of her neighborhood schools and see what happens. If the neighborhood school is meeting the needs of the parents then the impact on the student body will be nil. But if the same pattern repeats itself that has taken place across the city, the new charter, a school without a track record of successfully educating even one child, will find that people will be scrambling to get their kids admitted. The loss of students will then drive the traditional school to improve or eventually be closed.

I'm afraid that that the word "coordination" really means that the number of charter schools should be capped at the current level. But that is exactly the wrong direction to go. With thousands of students, as Ms. Brown has been highlighting for weeks, lacking a quality seat, the only way to go regarding our charters is forward.

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