Too Much of a Good Thing: Charters

Kipp- MontgomeryIt would help not to have too many charters. I like school choice, but I also believe you can have too much of a good thing. Yes, you can have too much chocolate, too much fun, and too many clothes. When the DC Public Charter School Board approved 5 new charters, I thought, that’s too many more charters.

I’ve been pouring through a lot of public and charter school data, for the fun of it. There are sucky DCPS schools and there are sucky charter schools. One would hope that the sucky charter schools go away, but like evil robots, they become self-aware and fight their termination. Try a cool idea, succeed and continue, or fail and close.

I looked at the application of one of the approved schools, the Social Justice School. In their statement of why the school is needed, they stated,”Social Justice School meets the needs of a diversifying District where most schools remain highly segregated. We will pursue educational justice as an intentionally integrated community” and further in the piece mentions the need for high performing middle schools. They admit they cannot control who applies to their school (and gets in via the lottery) but they plan on borrowing recruitment techniques from highly sought after charters. For a school that doesn’t seem to have a real world example elsewhere to point to I’m doubtful. But try an idea, and see if it succeeds. If it doesn’t, close it.

I also looked at schools that didn’t make it. Like the Arabic Language School and BOLT Academy. They both seem like really cool ideas, one teaching a language that is in need and the other being a study abroad school, but they had weaknesses which lead to their rejection.

A little less than half of DC students attend charters, but DC still needs DCPS schools. Many DCPS schools do serve a need, just not all. DC Charters serve a need, but let’s not get silly with flooding the market with too many schools when you’re not closing the low performing ones quickly enough.