MONDAY MARKS the start of a new academic year for the District’s public schools. Sadly, one school that won’t be opening its doors to students is the AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter. Thanks largely to the indifference of D.C. government, the school is without a facility for its highly acclaimed preschool program. That means 108 children, mainly African American and from economically disadvantaged families, won’t be able to benefit from a program that focuses on closing the achievement gap before kindergarten.
We wrote previously about the plight of the school: how it operated for the past five years in portable classrooms at a former tennis court next to Jefferson Middle School in Southwest as part of a temporary arrangement while it looked for a permanent home. How it’s difficult for charters to find space in the city’s high-priced real estate market. How it finally found new space that won’t be ready until next year. And how the city nonetheless said it couldn’t stay.
We had hoped that Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) or Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn or Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee — or any of the other officials who profess a commitment to early-childhood learning and closing the achievement gap — would have come to the rescue. Surely, we thought, the D.C. government, with all its resources, would be able to help. That didn’t happen, and the school was forced to vacate the property at the end of July.
The issue has become much more than a dispute about a small lease. Charter school advocates, as The Post’s Perry Stein reported, saw the matter as yet another sign of growing tensions between D.C. officials and charter schools — and emblematic of the ideological debate over charters being waged nationally. What gets lost in that political debate, and what has gotten lost as the city doubles down on all the reasons it wasn’t able to help AppleTree, is that on Monday, there will be 108 children in this city who need a good start in school but won’t get it.