- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2003

The number of city students leaving public schools for charter programs could increase now that the D.C. Public Charter School Board has applications to open 11 more charter schools.

The schools could open by fall 2004, and the two largest could serve 1,000 students each.

Tom Loughlin, D.C. public school board chairman, said the large number of applications shows that more parents are seeking alternative education, and that charter schools have made good impressions.

“I think the charter schools are starting to mature,” he said. “I think it’s giving the applicants more confidence.”

There are 11,500 students in D.C. charter schools and 69,600 in D.C. public schools.

The Public Charter School Board oversees a group of schools, and the D.C. Board of Education’s Public Charter Schools oversee the remaining ones.

Mr. Loughlin said several of the charter schools monitored by the D.C. Public Charter School Board have long waiting lists for students. About 9,900 children are slated to attend those schools in the fall.

An additional 6,200 students could attend charter schools in the fall if the 11 applications are approved, according to the maximum enrollment figures listed on the applications.

“There’s no way for me to know at this point which [applicants] are ready to go,” Mr. Loughlin said.

Since 1997, the D.C. Public Charter School Board has approved 24 of 79 applications.

The new application process begins next week, when board members begin interviews and panel reviews of the applicants, their budgets, mission statements and curriculum plans.

The board will then hold public hearings in July, and a decision is expected by December.

Three of the schools would offer elementary through high school programs; one would offer an ungraded adolescent program; and the remaining seven would have elementary or middle school programs or both.

When classes resume, the District will have 37 public charter schools, counting two new schools and one that closed. Another is scheduled to open in 2004.

Of the 36 charter schools now operating in the District, the D.C. Public Charter School Board oversees 21 and the D.C. Board of Education’s Public Charter Schools control 15. The D.C. Public Charter School Board will oversee the two new schools.

The D.C. Public Charter School Board will lose the first of the schools it oversees at the end of the month, when the Associates for the Renewal in Education charter high school closes its doors. The school, which opened in 1999, has been on probation for low test scores and a poor attendance rate.

Three of the board’s other schools are on probation, but Mr. Loughlin said he does not foresee other schools closing their doors.

Robert Cane, executive director of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, was pleased to see an increased interest in starting charter schools after a slow couple of years. The D.C. Public Charter School Board had five applicants two years ago and three last year.

“This could be an anomaly, or it could show a growing interest,” he said.

Mr. Cane also said his group is doing its best to ensure more charter schools are being started every year. In the fall the group will distribute information on how to start a school and aggressively recruit organizations to start them.

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