Back to Basics

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

THE D.C. BOARD of Education got off to a good start when it voted this week to impose a moratorium on charter school applications and also adopted a resolution calling for a reexamination of the board's role in the chartering business. The six members who supported the resolution should be commended for facing the reality that charter schools are taking them away from their main charge to reform traditional schools. They also appear to recognize the pointlessness in having two chartering authorities in a single school district. If the process outlined in the resolution leads to the school board relinquishing authority over charter schools, District students at both independently operated and traditionally directed public schools will be the beneficiaries.

There simply is no good reason why the Board of Education should charter and oversee 17 charter schools with 4,565 students, while the Public Charter School Board supervises 43 charter schools with 12,925 students. Obviously, as the board's resolution notes, the growth in the number of charter schools demonstrates their popularity with parents and students as a viable alternative. Why have separate chartering authorities to monitor, assess and certify school applications and collect fees associated with charter school administrative activities? It is an expensive duplication of effort.

Getting out of the chartering business would not reflect badly on the Board of Education. To the contrary, the board would be freed to attend to the 147 traditional public schools that need policy direction and oversight. A school board hearing set for July 18 will allow the mayor, D.C. Council members and the public to comment on the idea of relinquishing authority over charter schools. The arguments in favor far outweigh those that support the status quo.

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