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Charter schools currently educate more than 40 percent of the District's children. Now, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson says she wants the ability to authorize charter schools within the traditional public school system.
Henderson says there needs to be a way for charter schools and traditional public schools to offer services that "complement rather than compete" for students. For example, she says when two elementary schools, Terrell and McGogney, located across the street from each other were consolidated, an elementary charter school moved into one of the vacant buildings.
"Now, four years later, or five years later, I can't sustain the enrollment at Terrell-McGogney," says Henderson.
Terrell-McGogney school is now slated to close. Henderson calls this "poor planning " and says the area might have been better served with a middle or specialized charter school.
"If we're going to keep a traditional school system, we can't just have schools pop up anywhere and cannibalize schools, right?" Henderson says.
Currently D.C.'s Public Charter School Board is the only entity that can authorize a charter school opening. Henderson says if she had that authority, DCPS-authorized charter schools would retain their independence, but also benefit from DCPS's large system.
For example, she says some charter schools and D.C. public schools share the same food vendors, but charter schools pay more per meal because they are smaller.
"Some have said, 'actually we'd like to get in on your food service contract so we get a cheaper price,'" she says.
Henderson says another way these charter schools would benefit is to use DCPS designed curricula. She says smaller charter schools often don't have the staff to do that work.