Mayor Gray, Deputy Mayor Wright, and State Superintendent Mahaley at a presentation with PCSB Board Chair Brian Jones speaking. Photo by dcpcsb on Flickr.

The DC government found a magic pot of money this year, and it totals $42.2 million according to CFO Natwar Gandhi’s latest estimates.
It’s laudable that Mayor Gray wants to put half toward education, according to the Post’s Bill Turque. What’s not so laudable is his plan to give all the money to DCPS schools and neglect public charter schools.

DCPS schools enroll 60% of the city’s public school students. They would receive $21.1 million under the mayor’s proposal. Meanwhile, public charter schools, which enroll the other 40%, would get nothing.

This decision breaks the mayor’s campaign promises of funding parity for both district and charter schools. It also violates a 1995 law that allocates money between these two types of public schools using a formula.


A fairer solution would be to allocate those dollars according to the uniform per pupil formula that is already in place. That formula is designed to ensure that each DC school child gets the same amount of funding, regardless of where he or she goes to school.

DCPS has completely legitimate funding needs. They want to use the money to increase food service contracts, supplement teacher salaries, and for other personnel costs. DC’s public charter schools also have legitimate funding needs. In fact, they have exactly the same needs to feed their students and pay their teachers and other staff.

Public charter schools already have costs that don’t apply to DCPS schools. For example, a new charter school has to find, buy, and outfit a building, while a DCPS school does not. But all the charter schools want is equal funding and an equal chance to prove their worth, knowing they can lose their charter if they don’t perform well in educating their students.

Mayor Gray still has time to do what’s right and fix this by distributing the newfound revenues in accordance with the existing funding formula. Equal funding for all of DC’s public school students is not only good politics, it’s the law, and it is in keeping with the promise of One City.

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Steven Glazerman is an economist who studies education policy and specializes in teacher labor markets. He has lived in the DC area off and on since 1987 and settled in the U Street neighborhood in 2001. He is a Senior Fellow at Mathematica Policy Research, but any of his views expressed here are his own and do not represent Mathematica.