Students who live near a top-performing charter school would have greater odds at winning a seat in the school's lottery under a bill introduced in the D.C. Council Tuesday.
Present law requires D.C. public charter schools to open enrollment to all students in the District through a lottery system. The bill at-large Councilman David Grosso introduced Tuesday would change that by allowing new charter schools to give preference to students who live in the school's neighborhood.
The change would not affect the city's 57 existing charter schools, on 102 campuses, but would apply to any school opening after the new law is signed.
|Top-tier public charter schools|
|School||Ward||Percentage of students within 1 mile||Percentage of students in ward|
|Achievement Preparatory Academy||8||47 percent||82 percent|
|Capital City - Lower School||1||46 percent||42 percent|
|Center City - Brightwood||4||73 percent||82 percent|
|Center City - Petworth||4||76 percent||73 percent|
|Cesar Chavez - Chavez Prep||1||56 percent||50 percent|
|Community Academy - Butler||2||25 percent||20 percent|
|D.C. Prep - Edgewood Middle Campus||5||32 percent||49 percent|
|E.L. Haynes||4||42 percent||34 percent|
|Howard University Math and Science||1||20 percent||15 percent|
|Kipp D.C. - AIM||8||54 percent||82 percent|
|Kipp D.C. - College Preparatory||8||25 percent||50 percent|
|Kipp D.C. - KEY Academy||7||42 percent||64 percent|
|Kipp D.C. - WILL||6||38 percent||26 percent|
|Latin American Montessori Bilingual||4||25 percent||50 percent|
|Paul||4||41 percent||57 percent|
|SEED*||7||20 percent||37 percent|
|Thurgood Marshall Academy||8||27 percent||71 percent|
|Two Rivers - Elementary School||6||30 percent||45 percent|
|Washington Latin Middle School||4||11 percent||22 percent|
|Washington Latin High School||4||17 percent||35 percent|
|Source: D.C. Public Charter School Board|
Participating schools would be required to offer at least 20 percent of open seats or 40 seats, whichever is smaller, to students in the neighborhood. A school's neighborhood would be defined using the same geographic boundaries used to determine which DC Public Schools guarantee seats to students in an area.
Grosso said he proposed the measure at the urging of charter schools that would like to be able to develop a stronger relationship with the surrounding neighborhood.
"Parents are choosing to go to charter schools, as it is, all over the city," he said. "This just allows them to do it in their own neighborhood if they want to."
Grosso pointed to Kipp D.C., which has nine campuses spread across Wards 2, 7 and 8, as an example of a charter school that had expressed interest in giving preference to neighborhood students. Since Kipp is already established in the District, though, Kipp would not be able to take advantage of the measure as proposed.
The bill opposes recommendations made in December by a committee that was overseen by the Public Charter School Board and included Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson and Interim Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Leonard. A neighborhood preference is unnecessary since 35 percent of charter school students already go to a school within a mile of home and 49 percent go to a school within their ward, the committee explained.
Limiting charters' open-enrollment policy would likely hurt students in poorer neighborhoods, said Scott Pearson, charter board executive director.
Thousands of kids travel every day from Wards 7 and 8 to schools west of the Anacostia River, he explained. "A neighborhood preference in an affluent ward ... would shut out those kids from east of the river."
Several other cities allow charters to give preference to neighborhood students, with restrictions.
In New Orleans, for example, only charter schools that offer kindergarten through eighth grade are required to give neighborhood students priority, according to the D.C. committee report.
But these cities are exceptions to the rule, said Todd Ziebarth, senior vice president for state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "The rule [is] that charters are typically open enrollment," he said.