7 proposals to overhaul D.C. public schools

D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) plans to announce seven bills Tuesday that aim to overhaul the District’s public education system.

1. Funding: Raises per-pupil funding for poor children, students enrolled in vocational programs and schools with low graduation rates. Sends 80 percent of schools funding directly to principals to design their own budgets and programs. Fully subsidizes public transportation for low-income high school students.

2. Accountability : Allows the chancellor to open charter-like “innovation schools” free from certain city regulations and, if teachers agree, union contracts.

Calls on the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to create a performance metric for traditional schools. If a school fails to meet targets, the chancellor could turn it into an innovation school or ask the principal to develop a turnaround plan. If a school then fails to meet its improvement targets, the chancellor would be required to close it, turn it over to an outside operator or turn it into an innovation school.

3. Promotion : Gives principals the authority to decide which students should be promoted. Calls on schools to notify parents mid-year when their child is at risk of being held back. Children who are retained would be required to attend summer school unless given a waiver.

4. Lottery : Requires OSSE to adopt a unified lottery for traditional and charter schools beginning in 2015-16.

5. Facilities : Requires the chancellor to issue five-year facilities plans and provides a process for disposing of surplus buildings to charter schools. The D.C. Public Charter School Board could go to court if it feels the chancellor is wrongly holding onto buildings.

6. Parent engagement : Establishes an Office of the Student Advocate that would run parent education centers, offering help navigating traditional and charter schools.

7. Governance: Allows the state superintendent of education to be removed only for cause and by vote of the State Board of Education. Allows schools to ask for waivers from municipal regulations they find burdensome.

Emma Brown

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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