A COMPREHENSIVE new study on school funding in the District validates the long-held suspicion that public charter school students have not been funded equitably compared with their peers in the traditional school school system. The study also acknowledges that this is contrary to D.C. law. What remains to be seen is whether anything will now be done to correct the imbalance in how the city’s education dollars are apportioned.
The D.C. Education Adequacy Study, released last week, is an in-depth analysis of the city’s Uniform Per Student Funding Formula and was commissioned by Mayor Vincent C. Gray. In addition to examining the equity of funding between charter and system schools, the study examined the costs of providing an education that meets more demanding learning standards and serves the highest-need students. Among the recommendations: more technology to support blended learning, an extended school day and school year for at-risk students and summer bridge programs for entering ninth-graders.
The timing of the release of the report — on a Friday at 6 p.m. with no news release — seems to suggest the administration wants to temper expectations. Indeed, a letter that accompanied the report, from Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith, cited the “large price tag” — an estimated $180 million a year — that would be needed for full implementation of the report’s recommendations; it also noted that “priorities will have to be phased in over multiple years.”
But the study’s finding that D.C. Public Schools “receives significantly more funding than the public charter schools, in total and on a per-student basis” should spur action. Public charter school reform, now in its 18th year, has produced more high-performing schools than the traditional system. Charter school students, who account for 44 percent of public school students, have outperformed their peers in traditional schools. Unfair funding — in particular, disadvantages in getting adequate facilities — has been an impediment to schools replicating their success in a city that is thirsting for more high-performing classrooms.
Mr. Gray, to his credit, has worked to remove some of those obstacles, finding homes for some high-quality charters. The budget he will soon propose for next year will present yet another opportunity to make progress in the fair treatment of public charter schools.