Today the Washington Post's Emma Brown has two articles that demonstrate as clearly as possible the unequal public funding that D.C.'s charters receive compared to the traditional schools. First, the reporter reveals that DCPS pays teachers substantially higher than charter schools do. She comments,
"D.C. public charters operate as independent school districts, not tethered to the teachers union and free to set salaries and hiring standards. Although charters receive the same per-student tax funding, they do not get some of the government resources that benefit the traditional school system. That has contributed to charters touting intangible benefits instead of high salaries."
The intangible benefits Ms. Brown is referring to for teachers employed in charters include working longer school days, longer school years, and being available for students 24/7. All of this while practicing their profession in store fronts, church basements, and warehouses.
Charters would love to pay instructors more for having to teach under these conditions. But they cannot. This is because on paper charters and the regular schools get the same funding under the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula, but in reality this is not true. Charters get to pay for legal fees, school maintenance, and other administrative costs that DCPS facilities do not incur. Mary Levy estimated the difference in revenue between the two systems at around $100 million a year.
To add insult to injury the other Washington Post story celebrates the opening of the new Dunbar High School. Apparently it was a party over there yesterday as our city's leaders rejoiced at the glamorous building that cost taxpayers $122 million. I have real news for you. Charters would love to spend even a third of that amount of money on their classrooms, but this is impossible. No, not at $3,000 a child for a facility allotment that has not been increased a dime in years.
We keep hearing that something will change. Charters leaders are told to be patient because actions are about to be taken and studies are being done. But I declare that the waiting is over. After all, the school system that now educates 43 percent of all public school students did not tell anyone to stay quiet as we painstakingly spend every bit of our being successfully striving to close the academic achievement gap.