The D.C. Public Education Finance Reform Commission never drew any strong conclusions about the core issue that triggered its formation: inequities in the funding of public and public charter schools. But it gathered a lot of useful data, some of it projecting how the city’s two public education sectors are likely to grow over the next few years.
The projections, derived by the commission’s outside consultants, Collaborative Communications and the Finance Project, were culled from data kept by DCPS, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the D.C. Public Charter School Board and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. It’s important to remember that projections are just that: informed guesses based on current information or trends. They can turn out to be wrong.
Still, what the commission staff called “key observations” are worth noting:
—Charter school enrollment, already 41 percent of the public school population, is expected to increase by 10 percent in 2013. Beyond that, it will likely slow to about six percent annually through 2015 then drop to two percent gains in 2016 and 2017.
—DCPS enrollment, stable for the last couple of years after decades of decline, will stay flat for the next two years, then grow about 1.5 percent annually through 2017. It means that charters will continue their growth to about 46 percent of the city’s public school population, while DCPS’ share will dwindle to 54 percent.
—While DCPS has touted its enrollment gains in the early childhood grades, the commission found that its total share of the school-age population remained the same between FY 2008 and FY 2012: 33.8 percent. It means that the system has not captured a larger portion of the public school “market.”
—Education spending is expected to decrease by about five percent in 2013 then grow more modestly, at about 2.5 percent annually through 2017.
—Even if more public charter schools are co-located in underutilized DCPS buildings, or are provided complete access to surplus facilities—as recommended in the recent IFF report—DCPS will continue to have more space than it needs for its student population.
“Addressing this issue is likely to require consolidation and/or school closings,” commission staff said.