The poll, conducted by the D.C. chapter of Education Reform Now, found that a majority of voters, 63 percent, think the city’s schools are getting better.
And they want charter schools to figure into the mix, too.
The voters of D.C. don’t buy into the polarizing narrative that charter schools take away resources from traditional schools, just as our poll found as well. Rather, they see them as a way to bolster better public options for all children.
Three-quarters of voters surveyed, and 83 percent of parents, agree that:
In order to keep young families in D.C., we need to improve the quality of traditional [D.C. Public Schools] DCPS schools, but we also need to expand the top-performing public charter schools so more parents can choose a school that is right for their child.
This was expressed most strongly, at 85 percent, by respondents living in the Southeast quadrant of the city, which is predominantly black.
But while voters think D.C. public schools are on the mend, they don’t think those gains are being made equally. Some 75 percent of parents said, “schools are improving in upper-income areas of D.C., but schools in lower-income parts of the District are being neglected.”
A potential solution, voters said, was increased collaboration between DCPS and charter schools. Sixty-five percent support the school district partnering with a successful charter school to help turn around struggling schools.
D.C. residents are agnostic about what schools to send their children to; what they care about is that they perform.
And the people who express the greatest concern and strongest urgency about school inequity are the ones who are harmed most by it and have to live with it every day. While 82 percent of voters said “we cannot afford to wait for better schools,” the class differences in these response are telling; 78 percent of residents within affluent Northwest D.C. agreed with this statement, while 85 percent of those living outside that area agreed.
DCPS is to be commended for its substantial progress in improving what was once a failing school district, but in a city with the highest income inequality in the nation, the district must work even harder to close nagging achievement gaps.
Voters want changes that increase access to high-quality schools across the city, both by improving existing DCPS schools and by expanding top-tier public charter schools through access to vacant buildings and charter-district partnership schools.
Together, charters and traditional schools in D.C. can advance a new vision of what a school district can look like.