Washington Post on Charter Schools in DC

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Check out this fascinating article in the WaPo regarding the ever growing market share of charter schools in the District of Columbia. Blended learning schools will debut soon, DCPS continues to shrink, making some tetchy. Money quote:

Rocketship’s charter application — which is the largest ever to come before District officials, and which might win approval this month — arrives on the heels of Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s decision to close 15 half-empty city schools, highlighting an intense debate about the future of public education in the nation’s capital.

A growing number of activists have raised concerns that the traditional school system, facing stiffer-than-ever competition from charters, is in danger of being relegated to a permanently shrunken role. And they worry that Washington has yet to confront what that could mean for taxpayers, families and neighborhoods.

“Maybe we need an entire school system full of charters,” said Virginia Spatz, who co-hosts a community-radio talk show on D.C. education. “But we need to have that after public conversation, not by accident.”

With due respect to Ms. Spatz, there doesn’t seem to be anything accidental about this to me- DC parents will ultimately decide how many charter and district schools they want by voting with the feet of their children.

8 Responses to Washington Post on Charter Schools in DC

  1. allen says:

    It sure would be nice if *someone* led on the question of what to do with superfluous school districts.

    After all, it is a question that’s clearly going to be asked more often as an increasing number of districts enroll a minority of the public education kids within their geographic confines.

    New Orleans is already there, Washington D.C. looks to arrive at that state before long as does Detroit. It would probably help smooth the way to the post-district future to have some academicians cogitate, and hold forth, on the subject before the issue plops itself onto the public’s plate.

    • Greg Forster says:

      “Superfluous school districts” is redundant, isn’t it?

      • allen says:

        Nope. At least not legally and fiscally superfluous.

        The question that’s yet to be asked though is at what point should a school district be dissolved? Without some legally defined end-point to their existence what’s to keep a school district from continuing to collect taxes and spend them into some undefined future?

        It’s a question worth considering because in the not-too-distant future it’s a question that’s going to be asked a lot.

        Michigan’s set to completely remove our charter cap in just two years and, I believe, at least one other state’s doing the same. So it’s an issue that the states will have to wrestle with before long and waiting until districts have dropped to single digit percentages of the public education kids within their boundaries is poor public policy.

        The discussion should start now because the policy is going to have to be put to use before too very long.

  2. chungatest says:

    This is a “free market” myth that it’s “consumer demand” that has led charter market expansion. Refer to http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/15/us-usa-charters-admissions-idUSBRE91E0HF20130215 for how it’s the charters who get to choose their students more than families that get to choose their school.

  3. MatthewLadner says:


    How did DC charter schools get parents to enroll 40% of the students in the district, but without consumer demand?

  4. inteach says:

    Everyone will be in a charter. And then the same problems we had in the first place will reappear. Then will create another school model, and charter students will leave for that…ad nauseam…

  5. Dave Saba says:

    Favorite DC Charter story – I was working with a school when they got word that a similar school was now going to offer their after school program for free. Our school charged a modest fee. The principal’s response – “oh great – now we have to offer ours for free”. Parents as savvy consumers were driving continuous improvements.

  6. inteach says:

    So I get to work for nothing now. What an improvement.

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