We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

I’ve just read “Learning the Hard Way” (2/2), and I have a few observations:

1. I know nothing about how groups in D.C. are granted charters (the application process), but it seems reasonable to me—given what Laura Lang wrote—that it’s perhaps way too easy to get a charter in D.C. Lang never said so directly—I kept waiting for her to hit this one out of the ballpark. (My own group in Montgomery County is still at it. We reapply for a charter again next month. As a professional educator, I’d be disappointed if the application process was easy. The process should be fair yet extremely demanding—demanding enough to ensure minimum operating standards.)

2. The notion that each public school (regardless of location) has a limited number of activist parents is insulting. This notion has been used against my group, the Escalante. How does it go?—”You guys are drawing all the activist parents away from the neighborhood schools.” In reality, there is no limit here. This particular point or myth adds nothing to “Learning the Hard Way.”

3. I don’t believe that those of us advocating charters solely do so because public schools fail. This is way too simplistic. In fact, my group probably goes out of its way not to say negative things about the Montgomery County Public Schools. Believe it or not, I know it sounds like the typical charter-school rhetoric, but most of us involved with Escalante simply want another type of public secondary school. Take the issue of school size. With the exception of one high school (which is isolated rurally), Montgomery County has no small secondary schools. High schools easily range from 2,000 to 3,000 kids. If opened, our school would have fewer than 600 kids in Grades 6 through 12. Now, the critic of charters might say: “Why not fight for smaller schools for all?” Fair. But in reality, small for all ain’t going to happen. Why not try it for a limited number of kids, especially kids who the researchers say will most benefit from such environments?


Escalante Charter Steering Committee