D.C. public charter schools' lawsuit asks District to follow law (click here)


"Today, the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, Eagle Academy Public Charter School and Washington Latin Public Charter School filed suit asking that the judicial system remedy the District of Columbia government's long-standing practice of illegally funding its public charter school students at a lower rate than their peers enrolled in D.C. Public Schools, the traditional public school system. 

"D.C. public charter schools are public schools in the same way that DCPS schools are and educate 44 percent of all District students enrolled in public school—nearly 38,000 students. 

"The D.C. School Reform Act of 1995, which established public charter schools in the nation's capital, changed the way public education was to be funded in the District.  Instead of funding schools, the government would fund students, and the same amount of public funding would attach to students sharing the same characteristics.  So, for example, two third-grade students needing Level 1 special education funding would be funded at the same level,  including when one of those students attended DCPS and the other a public charter school. 

"But from the beginning, and continuing today, the D.C. government has ignored this fundamental requirement, directing much more funding to the school system than to the public charter schools.  The result: each public charter school student is underfunded, on average, by between $2,600 and $1,600 each year.  The plaintiff’s complaint, posted at DC School Funding Equity details the many ways the government subverts the legal requirement for uniform per student funding.

"After more than a decade of meetings, demonstrations of the fact of the disparities, and negotiations, DC’s charter community has decided it is no longer tenable for the District to withhold legally-mandated funding from  its public charter schools, which have brought real school reform to the District.  The graduation rate at the public charter schools exceeds DCPS’s rate by 21 percentage points.  And public charter school students outperform their peers on state reading and math tests, dramatically so in the District's most disadvantaged neighborhoods. 

"The legal action is a last resort.  It does not seek damages for past underfunding, which totals more than $770 million just since fiscal year 2008.  Instead, it asks the court to enjoin the D.C. government from continuing to flout the equal funding law.  All public school students should have the same protections and resources from their government." 

All three plaintiffs are registered nonprofits in the District of Columbia.  Legal counsel for the lawsuit are Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLPand the Marcus Firm PLLC.