Charter Schools Have Half of DC Kids, Long Waiting List

Waiting lists for Washington DC’s public charter schools are totaling over 17,000 names according to the DC Public Charter School Board. Lisa Gartner, of the Washington Examiner, notes that this is 51% of the total number of students enrolled in the city’s public charter schools. This year 45,630 DC children attended DC Public Schools while 31,562 attended charter schools.

“These numbers are a powerful indicator of D.C. families’ demand for more quality school options,” said Scott Pearson, executive director of the Charter School Board. “We realize there is a large gap between that demand and available slots, and we remain committed to … transforming public education so that more D.C. children can attend the school of their choice.”

This is the first time the charter board has attempted to compile the data and they cannot tell how many unique names are on waiting lists. As students were able to add their names to waiting lists for multiple schools it is likely the true figure is somewhat less than 17,000; however, it still represents a significant case of demand exceeding current supply as the charter school option increases its popularity among parents and students.

After the citywide admissions lottery many campuses have waiting lists exceeding 100 students, others still have some open seats. Two Rivers Public Charter School and Capital City Public Charter School are the most oversubscribed with more than a thousand children waiting for a place:

“I don’t want to discourage parents because we have found that seats open up after the school year begins — especially in the upper grades,” said Jessica Wodatch, executive director of Two Rivers. The charter has 94 students at its middle school, compared with 1,091 students waiting with fingers crossed for its elementary school.

DC’s charter school enrollment rate of 51% of public school students is only behind New Orleans nationally and with its rapid growth, 7% increase forecast for next year, could soon take the number one spot.

Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright has recommended closing 36 failing public school, with some converting to charter school status. The recommendation is currently under consideration by the Mayor in consultation with the local communities that will be affected.

David Pickens, executive director of DC School Reform Now, said he wasn’t sure whether he supported the deputy mayor’s findings, but “I am a strong proponent of the expansion of quality seats in D.C., and we want to do it in the least painful way,” he said. “Our kids just can’t afford to wait.”