The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the 21st Century Schools Fund have submitted testimony to the DC Charter School Board in opposition to the petitions of KIPP and DC Prep to expand. We have asked the Charter School Board to defer approving the applications until KIPP and DC Prep have established that: (1) they have implemented practices to ensure that African American students and students with disabilities are not subjected to excessive and disparate discipline; (2) there is a need for expansion in light of the existing supply of K–12 seats; and (3) they have met all the criteria under PCSB policy.
First, Kipp and DC Prep have a record of extremely high rates of discipline, especially among students of color or with disabilities. Each operate schools that suspend 24 percent or more of their students each year, a rate that is triple that of the national average for charter schools according to a recent Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) Report on DC Charter School Discipline. Before considering this petition, PCSB should conduct a thorough investigation of these alarmingly high suspension rates at these KIPP schools to ensure that federal and D.C. civil rights laws are respected.
Second, there exist nearly 18,000 open public K–12 school seats citywide in existing D.C. charter schools and traditional DCPS schools combined. More specifically, that includes at least 9,500 open seats in Wards 7 and 8 alone. Given that available supply, opening any new schools cannot be justified absent a finding of specific need resulting from a comprehensive citywide analysis of K–12 supply and demand that has been conducted by an authority responsible for both DCPS and the charter sector, which currently is the responsibility of the Deputy Mayor for Education.
Third, there are procedural defects in each application.
Given the serious civil rights concerns, the number of D.C. public school open seats that exist already, and our procedural concerns, the petitions should be denied. Read our testimonies below: