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D.C.'s Adequacy Study leaves charter school facility issue unresolved

Today, the editors of the Washington Post stand up for charter schools in the nation's capital by highlighting the findings of the Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith's Adequacy Study which identified that this system unlawfully receives millions of dollars per year less funding than DCPS, and they call for this to be immediately remedied. The column also points out the problem that charters have in obtaining permanent facilities which they accurately recognize is holding the movement back. However, on this issue the school system which now educates almost 37,000 students, or 44 percent of those attending public schools, receives no resolution.

Yes, the report calls for turning over more surplus traditional school buildings over to charters, and the Mayor deserves sincere gratitude for making this a reality. My own Washington Latin Public Charter School moved into the old Rudolph Elementary this term. It also recommends increased co-locations of charters with regular schools. But on the subject on the facility allotment the Deputy Mayor for Education's thoroughly comprehensive review states that more analysis on this subject must be done sometime in the future.

The charter school facility allotment has not been increased in years. Mayor Fenty, when he was in office, reduced the amount from $3,109 per student to $2,800. The city then used Federal three sector funds, a scheme Joseph E. Robert, Jr. devised to pass the Opportunity Scholarship Program that also includes dollars for DCPS and charters, to bring it up to $3,000. In 2012 Mayor Gray committed to maintaining this level relying solely on local revenue. There it has stayed since with no talk of the amount ever going up.

But at $3,000 per student it is exceedingly difficult to obtain space in the highly competitive Washington, D.C. commercial real estate market. This is what forces charters into substandard buildings. But not only is it almost impossible to lease adequate room. If a school is fortunate enough to be granted the right to utilize a surplus DCPS facility the allotment is not nearly sufficient to renovate classrooms that have often fallen into disgusting disrepair after years of neglect.

Charter schools are public schools just like DCPS, and therefore should be treated equally. The Adequacy Report for the first time for the D.C. government recognizes this in print. Now the implications of this fact should be fully realized by finally solving the charter school facility problem.