Court Holds that DC Council has Authority to Address Funding Inequities in Education

The quality of an education that District of Columbia students receive still depends far too much on the neighborhood in which they live, the income of their family, the color of their skin and whether they have a disability. Measures to address this inequity is driven, in part, by the ability of the District to allocate funding for neighborhood public schools. Several charter schools brought litigation to limit the District’s ability to invest in the lowest performing schools and sought a ruling that would enrich private educational entities over the public system. The Washington Lawyers’ Committee worked with a coalition of groups to participate in this litigation and to protect the District’s ability to create high quality schools for every student. 

Charter schools, which have already accumulated scores of millions of dollars in operating reserves, sought to transfer $100 million from the public to the charter system each year. The lawsuit did not assert that the charters needed these funds to operate effectively, but instead relied exclusively on a technical argument about funding formulas. Essentially, they sought a windfall at the expense of public school students. The potential loss of funding would be devastating for DCPS neighborhood schools, which serve a higher percentage of impoverished and special education students than charter schools.   

We support the DC Council’s authority to make funding decisions based on the needs of the system. Without this authority, students in traditional public schools may face funding shortfalls while at the same time charters increase profits and reserves.

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee, with Jeffrey Robinson and Elizabeth Marvin at Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss PLLC, filed an amicus brief in the case on behalf of local DC education organizations, advocates, and parents throughout every Ward.

Recently, the District Court rejected the charter Plaintiffs’ challenge and found that the DC Council had the authority to make necessary and appropriate funding decisions.

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