Budget & Finance

D.C. Charter School Group Claims District Underfunds Charters

By Denisa R. Superville — July 31, 2014 1 min read
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A local charter school advocacy group has sued the District of Columbia, alleging that the District has underfunded public charter schools by $770 million since 2008.

The group, D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, along with the Eagle Academy Public Charter School, and Washington Latin Public Charter School, filed the complaint in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, naming the District of Columbia, Mayor Vincent Gray, and Jeffrey S. Dewitt, the district’s chief financial officer, as defendants.

The plaintiffs argue that since 2008, the District of Columbia’s “systematic and continuing failure” to equitably fund charter schools has resulted in, on average, $1,600 to $2,000 less in funds per charter school student than his/her counterpart at a regular district school.

About 37,000 students attend charter schools in the city, the association said in the lawsuit. The D.C. Association of Public Chartered Schools represents about three dozen public charter schools in the district. (About 43 percent of the district’s public school students are enrolled in public charter schools, according to figures from the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board.)

The plaintiffs allege that the underfunding violates the 1995 D.C. School Reform Act, which calls for equal distribution of funds on a per-student basis to both traditional and charter schools.

The district didn’t follow through on the School Reform Act’s requirement that it develop a uniform dollar amount for per-pupil spending for similarly situated students and use that as the basis for calculating the annual operating funds for both public charters and traditional schools, according to the filing.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare district laws and practices that conflict with the D.C. School Reform Act to be unlawful. They are also seeking an injunction that the district comply with the School Reform Law and fund all of its public schools—both charters and regular schools—at the same level and on a per-pupil basis.

The Washington Post, which broke the story, uploaded a copy of the complaint, which can be read in its entirety here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.