At tonight's monthly meeting of the D.C. Public Charter School Board five schools are on the agenda for consideration of charter agreements. Charter agreements contain terms these charters will need to meet in order to continue operating. They are not without controversy.
You see at previous meetings these schools already received approval by the PCSB to operate for another 15 years. So you might ask, as I did, why the charter agreements don't come before, or as part of, the deliberation to allow these schools to continue. It turns out that reaching consensus between the Board and schools about what should be included in these documents is not so simple. At least four out of the five schools have engaged legal assistance in negotiations with the PCSB regarding the specific conditions. This means that, unfortunately, public money is most likely being spent on attorneys instead of on students.
The D.C. charter advocacy group FOCUS has already heard from schools complaining that the board's demands included in the agreements exceeds their legitimate authority. It was this group that pushed to have the contracts divorced from the actual renewal; apparently the fear was that schools would be forced to acquiesce to the new language in order to obtain their 15 year license to operate.
Some think that the charter agreements don't hold any weight. After all, it is the written charter that contains the operating guidelines for these alternative schools, which are normally updated through the amendment process. However, it is clear from the law that the PCSB has the right to issue them, and their aggressive use is what brings us to the current state of affairs. As of this writing the Board indicates in the background documentation for tonight's meeting that the agreements are still being negotiated.