- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2012

The academic success of D.C. youths will be on the line Tuesday morning, when the D.C. Council is scheduled to take up the mayor’s request for a supplemental budget that would add $25 million to traditional public school coffers.

Ordinarily, education advocates say, that might be a worthy fight but for two huge problems. For one, D.C. school officials are notorious for overspending their budgets.

For another, none of those millions is set to be given to students who attend public charter schools.

In fact, advocates say, the mayor and the council could find themselves on the wrong side of the spirit and the letter of D.C. law if they approve the proposal, which is biased against 41 percent of the D.C. public school population.

Here is how Ramona Edelin, executive director of the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools, plans to explain things in her council testimony, which is based on a uniformity, equity and facilities study jointly commissioned by her organization and Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS), which is headed by Robert Cane.

• “Uniformity of per student funding between DCPS and the public charter schools is a statutory requirement to ensure that funding follows students.

• “The Formula is intended to fund all the traditional school system functions for which DCPS and charter schools are responsible, instructional, non-instructional, and administrative.

• “The total amount of extra non-uniform local operating funds that DCPS receives and public charter schools do not ranges from $72 million to $127 million annually.

• “Disparities contravene the DC School Reform Act. If the DC government funds only DCPS or only the charter schools outside the (universal per-student funding formula), via mid-year allocations or budgeting funds for some DCPS functions in other city agencies, uniformity is meaningless.”

So, in the interest of brevity, forthwith is my cheat sheet (sans party affiliation) on why I think lawmakers should reject the mayor’s proposition to discriminate against charter students.

Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown: He often walks the walk (and occasionally stumbles) when it comes to education reform. But even Mr. Brown, the only lawmaker worthy of a top hat regarding the importance of the middle school years, should not put a rubber stamp on the mayor’s proposal. After all, if it weren’t for charters, there would be not one single public middle school in all of Ward 5.

Ditto Council member Vincent B. Orange: He is an at-large member who lives in Ward 5.

Council member Marion Barry: He would readily admit that Thurgood Marshall college prep, located in his ward, is one of the most successful charter high schools in the Washington region.

Council member Yvette M. Alexander: Heard of KIPP and Friendship charter schools in Ward 7? Well, Friendship Collegiate flipped a boarded-up, godforsaken public school and quicker than you could say Carter G. Woodson turned it into not only an academically success schoolhouse, but a high school whose teens are recruited into the NCAA, as well — a notable feat considering traditional public schools don’t want to share their athletic facilities with their charter counterparts.

Council members Michael A. Brown, David A. Catania and Muriel Bowser: This is the council’s politically ambitious trio. Expect Task Master Catania to rescreen the council’s 2009 and 2010 Michelle Rhee videos titled “Show Me the Money.”

Council member Jack Evans: As chairman of finance and revenue, he knows when red ink is about to be spilled. Mr. Evans needs to articulate to his colleagues why taxpayers cannot afford Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s ill-conceived budget request.

Ditto Mr. Orange: A CPA, he is taxpayers’ best backup when it comes to explaining why one-plus-one always equals two.

As for Mr. Gray: He knew the bills for implementing council member Mary M. Cheh’s costly healthy schools legislation and his own universal pre-K measure would come due at precisely this time of year.

It’s time for D.C. Public Schools to live within its budget, especially since Mr. Gray claims to be a supporter of charter schools.

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