School Choice & Charters Opinion

Revised D.C. Comprehensive Plan Gives Charter Schools First Dibs on Excess School Facilities

By Sara Mead — November 30, 2010 1 min read
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Lydia DePilis reports that the revised D.C. Comprehensive Plan, to which the D.C. Council passed numerous announcements last week, includes new language specifying that charter schools should have a “right of first refusal” for use of surplus public school facilities. Like charter schools in many cities with excess public school facilities, charter schools in D.C. have struggled to gain access to former public school buildings--even though making these facilities available to charters seems like common sense.

Whether the revised language will make a difference in practice remains to be seen, however--a number of jurisdictions, including D.C., have enacted policies designed to give charters access to excess public school buildings, but the implementation hasn’t always resulted in charters actually being able to access the buildings. A belief that the city wasn’t forthcoming in making closed public school buildings available to charter schools was one complaint charter leaders had with outgoing Mayor Adrian Fenty’s administration--will be interesting to see how incoming Mayor Vincent Gray deals with this issue.

This is also an important reminder that there are a lot of non-educational policies--including zoning policies and policies regarding disposition of unused public buildings and land--that affect how supportive/hospitable a city is to charter schools--and a lot of things elected officials who don’t officially have jurisdiction over education can do to influence that.

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The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.