NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Why Some Schools Clamor for Charter Status

January 13, 2000

Last spring, two-thirds of the parents and teachers at the District of Columbia's Paul Junior High voted to take their school out of the city's public school system -- a move which the school district quickly fought. The school's experience is a showcase for the reasons why some schools seek to escape the education bureaucracy and become largely self-governing charters.

  • It took the district six months to agree to a plan by the school's principal to use discretionary funds to hire math tutors to help eighth-graders prepare for citywide tests last year -- and when they finally gave the okay it was too late to make much difference.
  • No one in the district's central maintenance office responded to requests to have the school's gutters cleaned -- so rainwater backed up and seeped through the roof and two floors of classrooms.
  • New biology textbooks arrived unannounced this fall, but they were too advanced for the school's ninth-graders.
  • Paul's teachers won a $91,000 federal grant to buy computers and software -- but the equipment had to be ordered through the district office and what little has arrived so far wasn't what the teachers ordered, doesn't work without some missing components, and can't be hooked up.

So what about plans to become a charter? The district's superintendent is refusing to rent out the school building to the charter. Washington has lost a larger percentage of its students to charters than any other district and the powers that be are wary, according to reports. The superintendent expects to lose $30 million in funds -- which is 5 percent of the district's school budget -- because of the charters.

Source: June Kronholz, "A Principal's Fight for a Charter School Riles a Superintendent," Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2000.


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