Experienced charter school operators have yet to take advantage of the District’s new fast-track approval process, which would allow school leaders with a record of success in other cities to open doors here a full year ahead of the regular timetable.
Operators seeking to start classes in the District next fall had until Oct. 1 to submit applications to the D.C. Public Charter School Board. The board received zero applications as that deadline came and went, said spokeswoman Audrey Williams.
Williams attributed the lack of applications to timing, not lack of interest. The board released its guidelines for streamlined approval in late August, giving prospective applicants only a month to pull together their bids.
“They do have another opportunity to apply, so chances are we will see something then,” Williams said.
The next fast-track application deadline is Nov. 16. Operators who meet that deadline may be approved in February and able to open by fall 2014.
The charter board established the expedited approval process this summer in an effort to encourage proven charter operators to come to the city. D.C. Public Schools officials have been working on plans to close under-enrolled traditional schools, potentially giving the charter sector — already fast-growing — an opportunity to expand.
As my colleague Bill Turque wrote in July:
Exactly who would respond to the accelerated application process isn’t clear. But any list of charter networks that officials would like to see here would probably include the California-based Rocketship Education; Uncommon Schools, which operates in Boston, New York and Newark; Breakthrough Schools, a Cleveland charter group, and Alliance College Ready Public Schools of Los Angeles.
Normally, prospective charter operators apply during the first quarter of the calendar year. They win approval in the spring, and then more than a year passes before they are ready to enroll students.
That timeline still applies for people or organizations that don’t have previous charter experience but want to start a school in Washington. The application deadline is March 1; approved schools would open in 2014.