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D.C. finally leases four more surplus buildings to charters

The Washington Post's Michael Alison Chandler reveals this morning that the District is prepared to lease four more surplus DCPS buildings to charters this fall. Usually, this would be viewed as extremely positive news.

But not today. The timing of the announcement from the Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith comes at a particularly bad moment for the local charter movement. For it was over this summer that we had to witness a new comer to this town, Harmony PCS, publicly attacked by none other than DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson for having the gall to locate across the street from one of her elementary schools that offers a STEM curriculum similar to that of the charter to identical grades. The Washington Post exposed the story, leaving out the inconvenient fact that Harmony did everything in its power to coordinate the site of its permanent home with the very people in the Gray Administration that control access to shuttered classroom space. All Harmony wants to do is to provide the children of the nation's capital a D.C. Public Charter School Board Performance Management Framework Tier 1 school beginning on day one.

Following almost immediately after this disaster we collectively cringed as Shining Stars Montessori Academy lost two deals for facilities that threatened to prevent the school from continuing to operate this year. In the first case Shining Stars was actually beat out at the last minute by another charter, Bridges, which exposed an ugly competition for private space from within the family of alternative schools. It went on to secure a place in Ward 3 which fell through only after the parents were informed of the new location and the PCSB had given a green light on the move. A final address was acquired 48 hours later and only a few days before the start of the term.

In Ms. Chandler's story she writes that the Deputy Mayor "said the city is releasing the buildings over time in small batches so that the complex selection and negotiation process can be managed well and to give more charter schools a chance to compete for them." I'm sorry but after these two most recent experiences my viewpoint is hopelessly tainted. I think the Administration is torturing us slowly and painfully by reluctantly turning on the faucet just enough to let a few building escape their grasp. Why this would be the case is anyone's guess.

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