Board 'Inclined' to Relinquish Monitoring Role
Sunday, October 29, 2006
The D.C. Board of Education is considering giving up authority over charter schools and transferring oversight of the 18 public charter schools it monitors, according to key members of the panel.
No decision has been finalized, and the proposal does not make clear whom the Board of Education would designate as the day-to-day manager of the charter schools. The board, which is dealing with a federal investigation of its charter school office, is expected to take action on the plan at its Nov. 13 meeting.
"The board right now is inclined to get out of the business of doing the day-to-day oversight and management of charter schools," board president Peggy Cooper Cafritz said. Next month, she said, the board will probably consider a proposal under which it "would continue to charter and close schools that need to be closed, but we will solicit a university or nonprofit to provide the monitoring of the charter schools."
The proposal comes at a time of great uncertainty in D.C. education as the Democratic mayoral primary winner, council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), is talking openly about seeking control of the schools, a move that could affect the existence of the current school board.
The board's plan would require the approval of the D.C. Council, and possibly of Congress, which passed the 1996 law permitting charter schools in the District and gave the Board of Education authority to open charters. The law also created a second chartering board, the D.C. Public Charter School Board, a seven-member appointed panel.
Some school board members said yesterday that it is time for them to focus on the city's 141 traditional schools. School advocates agreed that the board, which has been accused of lax charter school oversight, would be taking the right step.
"I think it would be a very good thing for the Board of Education to get out of the chartering business, because they've made a mess of it," said Robert Cane, executive director of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, an advocacy group.
Most of the charter schools under the school board's control are concerned about any change.
Ramona Edelin, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Association, which has 35 member schools, said yesterday that leaders of 15 of the board's 18 charter schools signed a letter this summer stating that they want the school board to retain its role.
"They would like to report to the authority that the people have elected," Edelin said. "They feel very strongly about that." She said she also is concerned about whether the schools were consulted about the decision.
"There are 18 existing contracts," she said. "I think they feel that contract is a two-way street and that the schools would have to agree to that."
The school board began laying the groundwork for possibly shedding the charter schools in June, when it imposed an indefinite moratorium on charter applications. That was the second time in two years it had taken a break from opening new charters to study its involvement.