Finally leaders of D.C.'s charter school movement have public officials in place to fix the funding and facility equity issues between them and DCPS. It has been a long time coming.
Mayor Fenty was all in for education reform but completely ignored charters that rapidly moved to teach almost as many students as the traditional system. Mr. Gray ran on the promise of funding equity for charters, and while little progress has been made on this issue so far the Mayor has not changed his tune.
He appointed Abigail Smith as the new Deputy Mayor of Education. Ms. Smith comes from the board of directors of E.L. Haynes Public Charter School and was a consultant for the Public Charter School Board on the common lottery issue. Early on in her position she successfully pushed for 16 vacant DCPS buildings to be turned over to charters or other community organizations, a move Chancellor Henderson initially publically opposed.
Then this week we learned that the head of the Department of Parks and Recreation Jesús Aguirre is Mayor Gray's nominee to fill the vacant position of State Superintendent of Education at OSSE. Mr. Aguirre and his wife co-founded and operated one of Arizona's first charter schools which they ran for 10 years.
The one wild card in all of this is David Catania, the chairman of the D.C. Council's education committee. Mr. Catania has openly worried about the strong proliferation of charters and the lack of coordination regarding the location of these schools within the traditional public school landscape. However, when asked recently if he would support restricting charter growth the Washington Post's Emma Brown has him commenting that “I don’t believe that the answer to improving DCPS schools is closing the opportunity for additional choice." One issue here is that it has been widely revealed that Mr. Catania does not get along with Scott Pearson, the executive director of the Public Charter School Board. However, on the flip side he does appear to have a respectful relationship with FOCUS.
So all in all it appears we have the perfect maybe once in a lifetime opportunity to straighten out the approximately $100 million a year deficit in public finds that charters do not receive compared to DCPS. Now, we just need our public officials to have the courage to do what is right for our children.