Tag Archives: District of Columbia

D.C. charter schools expel students at far higher rates than traditional public schools

Source: Emma Brown, Washington Post, January 5, 2013

The District’s public charter schools have expelled students at a far higher rate than the city’s traditional public schools in recent years, according to school data, highlighting a key difference between two sectors that compete for the District’s students and taxpayer dollars. D.C. charter schools expelled 676 students in the past three years, while the city’s traditional public schools expelled 24, according to a Washington Post review of school data. During the 2011-12 school year, when charters enrolled 41 percent of the city’s students, they removed 227 children for discipline violations and had an expulsion rate of 72 per 10,000 students; the District school system removed three and had an expulsion rate of less than 1 per 10,000 students.

Quality controls lacking for D.C. schools accepting federal vouchers

Source: Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown, Washington Post, November 17, 2012

Congress created the nation’s only federally funded school voucher program in the District to give the city’s poorest children a chance at a better education than their neighborhood schools offer.

But a Washington Post review found that hundreds of students use their voucher dollars to attend schools that are unaccredited or are in unconventional settings, such as a family-run K-12 school operating out of a storefront, a Nation of Islam school based in a converted Deanwood residence, and a school built around the philosophy of a Bulgarian psychotherapist.

At a time when public schools face increasing demands for accountability and transparency, the 52 D.C. private schools that receive millions of federal voucher dollars are subject to few quality controls and offer widely disparate experiences, the Post found.

Some of these schools are heavily dependent on tax dollars, with more than 90 percent of their students paying with federal vouchers.

Yet the government has no say over curriculum, quality or management. And parents trying to select a school have little independent information, relying mostly on marketing from the schools.

Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead

Source: Travis Madsen, Phineas Baxandall, Maryland PIRG Foundation, October 2011

From the press release:
A new research report released today outlines problems with the growing trend among cities to outsource traffic enforcement to red-light and speed camera vendors….The report, titled “Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead; The Risks of Privatizing Traffic Law Enforcement and How to Protect the Public” finds that approximately half of states have enabled the use of automated traffic law enforcement. Municipalities in these states contract with private companies to provide cameras and issue citations to traffic violators. Citizens have often objected to privatized forms of traffic enforcement and many municipalities have found themselves in legal trouble when they attempt to change or update these contracts. Traffic engineering alternatives, such as lengthening yellow lights, are often the best way to reduce injuries from red-light running. However, those solutions too often get ignored because contractors and sometimes municipalities are more focused on increasing revenue from tickets….
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District considers running own school security

Source: Lisa Gartner, Examiner, May 22, 2012

D.C. officials are considering moving school security in-house, after running into continual problems with contracting companies over the years.

The District’s auditor estimated Tuesday that 291 full-time guards would cost the city $11.4 million a year — less than the $18 million annual contract that U.S. Security Associates, which provides personnel at city buildings and public schools, holds with the District. The city also contracts with Securitas USA to patrol its public schools.

But the cost is not the reason District has opened the bidding process for next year. Undercover D.C. police officers were able to repeatedly sneak bombs into local government buildings, according to a memo first obtained by the Service Workers Employees International Union.

Teacher at Friendship Public Charter School Accused of Taping Visually Impaired Student To Chair

Source: Maureen Umeh, myfoxdc.com, March 8, 2012

A teacher at Friendship Public Charter School has been placed on administrative leave after allegedly taping a nine-year-old visually impaired student to a chair. The alleged incident happened Wednesday afternoon during an after school tutoring program at the Friendship Blow Pierce Junior Academy Campus in Northeast.

Home, office of D.C. contractor Jeffrey Thompson raided by federal agents

Source: Nikita Stewart, Del Quentin Wilber and Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, March 3, 2012

Federal agents raided the home and offices Friday of a top District government contractor and political donor as a part of an investigation into city corruption, officials familiar with the probe said. … Thompson is the majority owner of the city’s single-largest contractor, Chartered Health, which holds a Medicaid managed-care contract worth as much as $322 million yearly. The company has held the contract for more than a decade.

NoMa: The Neighborhood That Transit Built

Source: Rachel MacCleery and Jonathan Tarr, Urban Land Institute, February 29, 2012

An infill transit station, built with significant private sector funding, helped transform a desolate swath of Washington, D.C., into a vibrant, vital, mixed-use neighborhood.

The neighborhood that has become NoMa (short for north of Massachusetts Avenue), now home to luxury apartments, high-end offices, and dozens of construction cranes raising new buildings, just ten years ago was marked by abandoned warehouses, windswept parking lots, vacant properties, and a methadone clinic. Located just a few blocks north of the U.S. Capitol and the busy Union Station railway hub, the area was adjacent to elevated transit tracks but was not served by a station. Now, eight years after a remarkable financial collaboration by the federal government, the District of Columbia, and local landowners helped build a new infill transit station, the area is undergoing a transformation.

Why states should say ‘no thanks’ to charter schools

Source: Diane Ravitch, Montgomery Advertiser, February 11, 2012

Former Washington, D.C., school chancellor Michelle Rhee has sent her followers to Alabama to promote charter schools, but Alabama should say “no, thanks.” The District of Columbia is no model for school reform….Charter schools haven’t helped other states and they won’t help Alabama. Here are the reasons why.
-Numerous national and state studies have shown that charters on average don’t get better results than regular public schools.
-Charter schools weaken the regular public schools. They take money away from neighborhood public schools and from the district budget
-Many of the “high-performing” charter schools succeed by skimming off the best students, even in poor districts.
-Many charter schools succeed by excluding or limiting the number of students they accept who have disabilities or who are English language learners
-Many charter operators are for-profit, and the district winds up paying them tax revenue that should be invested in students

How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools

Source: Lee Fang, Nation, November 16, 2011

This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

If the national movement to “reform” public education through vouchers, charters and privatization has a laboratory, it is Florida. It was one of the first states to undertake a program of “virtual schools”–charters operated online, with teachers instructing students over the Internet–as well as one of the first to use vouchers to channel taxpayer money to charter schools run by for-profits….

Lamenting this series of defeats, Patricia Levesque, a top adviser to former Governor Jeb Bush, spoke to fellow reformers at a retreat in October 2010. Levesque noted that reform efforts had failed because the opposition had time to organize. Next year, Levesque advised, reformers should “spread” the unions thin “by playing offense” with decoy legislation. Levesque said she planned to sponsor a series of statewide reforms, like allowing taxpayer dollars to go to religious schools by overturning the so-called Blaine Amendment, “even if it doesn’t pass…to keep them busy on that front.” She also advised paycheck protection, a unionbusting scheme, as well as a state-provided insurance program to encourage teachers to leave the union and a transparency law to force teachers unions to show additional information to the public. Needling the labor unions with all these bills, Levesque said, allows certain charter bills to fly “under the radar.”

If Levesque’s blunt advice sounds like that of a veteran lobbyist, that’s because she is one. Levesque runs a Tallahassee-based firm called Meridian Strategies LLC, which lobbies on behalf of a number of education-technology companies….

…But Levesque wasn’t delivering her hardball advice to her lobbying clients. She was giving it to a group of education philanthropists at a conference sponsored by notable charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

Editorial: D.C.’s contracting system needs a major overhaul

Source: Washington Post, October 31, 2011

A recent report by the D.C. inspector general criticizes poor oversight of a city contract for building security. The District overpaid millions, and the contract was extended without proper competition. The findings come on the heels of another inspector general’s report faulting the shoddy training of government employees charged with administering contracts, amid disturbing evidence of politicization of the procurement process. Maybe it is time for reform.

Problems with District procurement, as revealed in Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby’s look at the award of contracts to now-defunct Hawk One Security from 2005 to 2009, are deep-seated, predating the current mayoral administration. Over the years, significant flaws have been identified in how the city acquires more than $1 billion each year in goods and services, including long delays, inconsistent policies and abuses of authority. …