Mayor Proposes 'Walkability' Preference for Charters

Some Worry the Option Could Hurt Equal Access for Some Students

Two Rivers PCS (1227 Fourth St. NE). (Photo: Great Schools)

Students living within a half mile of a charter school may get preference for admission to that school with a proposed change to the DC schools lottery system, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Jan. 30.

If passed by the DC Council, the “walkability preference” would give charter schools the option — not requirement — to prioritize admission for students living a half mile from the school and more than a half mile from their in-bounds public school starting in the 2018-19 school year. Currently, the City estimates about 10,000 students live more than a half mile from their public school option and under a half mile from the local charter school.  

But not all people support Bowser’s move. At-Large Councilmember David Grosso (I) chairs the education committee and told the Washington Post that he has some concerns about the proposal. He worries that giving certain students preference will limit other students’ chances to choose a better quality school, he said. Charter options have opened access to better schools for children in all wards.

Giving charter schools and public schools an equal chance at drawing from the inbounds region will squash the benefits of a competitive market, said Mark Lerner, a former board member of charter schools and writer on DC’s school system.

“Under Ms. Bowser’s proposal […] parents could be provided access to charters not because they like the curriculum, or the principal, or the standardized test scores, but simply due to its location,” Lerner wrote on his blog “We would be turning our backs on the incentives that turned around a deplorable situation.”

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