Local: Education

Charter schools say they can't compete with DCPS teacher pay

Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner
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  • Two more charter schools on the chopping block (12/21/11)
  • First-ever rankings place 15 D.C. charter schools are ending the minority achievement gap (11/3/11)
  • Leaders of the District's top-performing charter schools told the D.C. Council on Tuesday that they can't compete with the bonus-laden pay scale of D.C. Public Schools when it comes to attracting and retaining top teachers.

    The outcry was prompted by a $21.4 million funding bonus Mayor Vincent Gray has proposed for DCPS, with no extra money being allocated for the city's charter schools, where 40 percent of public school students enroll.

    DCPS asked for $25.2 million at a hearing Tuesday, and charter leaders told the D.C. Council that 40 percent of those dollars -- or $10.1 million -- should be earmarked for charters.

    David Endom, director of financial planning for KIPP DC, said his high-performing charter network has offered an 8 percent raise to teachers, but because per-pupil funding from the city for charter schools has increased only once since 2009, "our pay scale is not even on par with DCPS, which obviously has implications for teacher recruitment and retention."

    That sentiment was echoed by leaders from seven other charters, including Washington Latin Public Charter School and the Howard University Middle School of Math and Science.

    Jenny DuFresne, head of all-male charter Septima Clark, said she was upset the school could not afford mental health services for a suicidal student, and said she was at a loss to explain why his favorite teacher had left, needing more money.

    Under Impact, the teacher evaluation tool introduced by former Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, DCPS's top teachers can receive annual bonuses of up to $25,000, in addition to annual pay raises.

    A recent report commissioned by the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools and Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, found that DCPS receives between $72 million and $127 million a year from the city that charters don't.

    D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan shut down the groups' legal challenge, saying the D.C. School Reform Act of 1995 only requires the city to fund all public schools at the minimum $8,943 per student -- essentially, any other funding is extra and does not need to be spread evenly.

    The council has not decided if it will grant Gray's request. Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, who has admonished the administration for what he called a "tax and spend" mentality, said the city should be building up its savings again.

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