Chartered flight to nowhere

August 24, 2006

This month, D.C. School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey called on the City Council to place a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools. This proactive effort is a major change in the most extensive charter market in the country, and one that could save the faltering D.C. public school system.

The charter school movement was misguidedly conceived to provide alternatives to public schools. Theoretically, charter schools would provide better education through innovative methods while maintaining free admission. In reality, nationwide studies prove charter school attendance does not improve scholastic achievement, and while D.C. charters do outperform public schools, their scores are still woeful compared to the national average.

There are definite success stories among D.C. charter schools. The Capital City Public Charter School, for example, while providing state-of-the-art facilities and two teachers in most classrooms. But it sports a waiting list of more than 600 students, according to The Washington Post. The losers in the admission lottery are forced to remain in inferior schools, creating a de facto caste system of District education. Children are literally being left behind.

Those children are forced to remain in dilapidated, under-funded schools that are suffering even further financially from the loss of funding diverted to the charters. By usurping the money necessary to fix the crumbling (or already crumbled) facilities and low teaching quality of the city’s public schools, the very existence of charters is undercutting the public schools’ ability to improve, and in some cases, is even causing them to close.

Charter schools will never serve as a replacement for the public education system. Throwing public money at private sources for education greatly reduces the city’s capacity for oversight, slashing D.C.’s ability to ensure a quality education. There are plenty of examples of substandard education and corruption in charter schools. The likely result of replacing a mostly-public with mostly-charter school system would be to create even worse disparity between the best and worst educated children in the system.

Private schools already exist as self-sustaining alternatives to public school for dissatisfied residents. Those who cannot afford private school, the ostensible beneficiaries of charter schools, are actually the ones who suffer when their children are forced to remain in the increasingly desperate public education system. The District’s focus should shift from providing ineffectual and non-egalitarian alternative schooling to comprehensively and innovatively reforming the public education system, with all the financial and human resources available.

Editorial Board
The Editorial Board is the official opinion of the Georgetown Voice. Its current composition can be found on the masthead. The Board strives to publish critical analyses of events at both Georgetown and in the wider D.C. community. We welcome everyone from all backgrounds and experience levels to join us!

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