Local: Education

D.C. charter schools tout success, ask for more money

Local,Education,Liz Farmer

Charter school representatives seized the opportunity Wednesday to tout their performance against D.C. Public Schools, just weeks after a city report was released that favored the public-private institutions.

At a D.C. Council hearing on the performance of all public schools, charter school representatives showed up in droves to remind council members about their higher average test scores and graduation rates and to beg for more funding.

Ramona Edelin, executive director of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, said charters don't get funding for the arts or sports programs like DCPS does even though roughly 40 percent of public school students attend charters. By her analysis, nonuniform funding for DCPS -- money that charters do not get -- ranges from $72 million to $127 million annually.

"We urge the council and the city ... to walk the talk with respect to and resources for its charter schools," Edelin said. "They're doing everything you want them to."

Last month D.C.'s deputy mayor for education released a report recommending that three dozen D.C. Public Schools campuses be closed or turned around, likely reinvented as charter schools. While a boost for the charter community, some on Wednesday warned that special education children could be left behind in such a transition.

Shawn Ullman, an attorney for the advocacy group University Legal Services, reminded the council that a complaint had been filed with the U.S. Department of Justice claiming discrimination in charter schools admission policies against special education children. As "decisions are being made about closing schools," she said, she hoped city leaders would pay attention to the needs of all children.

"There are lots of charter schools serving special education well ... it just needs to be even," Ullman said. "And if you are focusing on charter schools [as a solution], you need to make sure that includes students with disabilities."

But DCPS' handling of students with special needs still must be improved, said Judith Sandalow, executive director of the Children's Law Center. She said one of her clients with a neurological disorder was placed in a wheelchair after an operation. DCPS suggested three schools that were handicap accessible -- turns out only one of them actually was, she said.

"There's a sort of disconnect between what people wish were true and the reality of what's true on the ground," she said.

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