Credit: Julia Terbrock

Your local lawmakers are considering multiple pieces of legislation that would increase public access to information about D.C.’s public schools. This debate includes questions like: Who should have access to data about the schools? Should parents be able to access sexual misconduct complaints

Right now, D.C. charter schools are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, which enables residents to request access to data, certain salary information, emails between charter employees, and other documents that are publicly available in the city’s traditional public schools. One proposed bill, by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, would change that.

At-Large Councilmember David Grosso also introduced the School-Based Budgeting and Transparency Act this past spring, which would require charter schools to make their board meetings open to the public and aim to improve the accessibility of all school budget expenditures. 

The Council is working on both bills this fall, and a hearing for Allen’s bill is set for Oct. 2. 

So we think it’s a good time for a community conversation. Charter advocates argue that being subject to transparency requirements would add a crippling layer of bureaucracy—exactly the kind of bureaucracy that the charter movement was created to avoid. Open government and traditional public school advocates argue that DC Public Schools shouldn’t face different transparency requirements from their charter counterparts, and the public has a right to the information.

City Paper has been covering these issues for more than a year. Please join us on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at Black Cat for a panel discussion on school transparency in D.C. Black Cat is at 1811 14th Street NW. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the panel begins at 6:30. Register here

City Papers Rachel M. Cohen will lead a panel in talking through the following questions:

  • How much information should the public be able to access about their publicly-funded schools? 

  • How should the city balance its need for transparency with its desire to spare school leaders from overwhelming bureaucracy?

  • How does D.C.’s unique relationship with Congress affect these issues?

Do you want to know more about school transparency issues? Here’s a starter reading list to prepare for Tuesday night’s event:

  • “How Charter Schools Won D.C. Politics” [WCP]

  • The School Based Budgeting and Transparency Act of 2019 [David Grosso]

  • “Ramona Edelin: Charter schools already lead on accountability, but they also need autonomy, adequate funding” [DC Line]

  • #WeBudgetTogether: Transparent Citywide School Funding [PAVE]

  • “D.C. is thriving. Why do some school budgets appear to be shrinking?” [Post]

  • “D.C. continues misspending funds intended for neediest in its schools, report says” [Post]

  • “Does D.C. Charter Schools’ Autonomy Come at the Cost of Public Accountability?’ [WCP]

  • “New Bill Would Subject Charters to Same Transparency Rules as D.C. Public Schools” [WCP]

  • “Who Gets Access to Data About D.C.’s Public Schools?” [WCP]

  • “Parents Pressure Schools to Release Sexual Misconduct Complaints and Data” [WCP]

And finally, here are your esteemed panelists:

Eboni-Rose Thompson is the Chair of the Ward 7 Education Council and served three terms as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Ward 7. She attended both traditional public and charter schools in D.C.

Elizabeth Koenig has taught at three different charter schools and currently teaches at a DC Public Schools school in Ward 4. She is a Lead Organizer for EmpowerEd, a nonprofit dedicated to elevating the voices of teachers and improving teacher retention.

Fritz Mulhauser is co-chair of the legal committee for the DC Open Government Coalition. He is an attorney with 20 years of experience in civil rights work at the ACLU of DC. Before that he worked in education, teaching and writing new curricula.

Qubilah Huddleston is an education policy analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. Prior to joining DCFPI, she worked at Code in the Schools, a Baltimore City nonprofit that expands student access to quality computer science education.  

Rich Pohlman is representing FOCUS, Friends of Choice in Urban Schools. He is the former executive director of Thurgood Marshall Academy, and held leadership roles at E.L Haynes Public Charter. He is a former board member for the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools.

We hope to see you on Tuesday evening.

City Paper has more community conversations coming to you this fall. Subscribe to District Line Daily to learn about our events as they happen. 

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