Washington, D.C. schools are losing so many students to charters that some wonder if the system will go all charter, reports the Washington Post. District-run schools are trying to compete with charters but not showing much success.
With public confidence in the schools at an all-time low, more than 17,000 public school students — nearly one in four — have rejected the traditional system in favor of 51 independently run, publicly funded charter schools. That share is one of the largest in the nation and is expected to rise when six more charter schools open their doors this fall.
Superintendent Clifford B. Janey wants a moratorium on new charter schools, though he’s not likely to get it. “Two recent studies show D.C. charters outperforming traditional schools,” the Post reports, though scores remain well below the national average.
Charters started in D.C.’s poorest black neighborhoods but are expanding to middle-class areas, offering a free education to parents who can’t afford private schools and might otherwise move to the suburbs.
Next month, the Washington Latin School, a charter for grades five through 12, is scheduled to open in the same Northwest Washington neighborhood as St. Albans, Sidwell Friends and other exclusive private schools. Washington Latin will offer a “classical education” that is “rich in antique and global literary sources,” according to its Web site.
Charter critics complain these new, integrated charter schools will remove the last remaining middle-class students from the district-run schools. On the other hand, that battle seems to be lost: “A recent Washington Post poll found that 15 percent of D.C. voters have confidence in the regular school system, the lowest recorded in a Post survey.”