Letter to the Editor, The Wall Street Journal
The bureaucratic infighting over the struggle to convert one Washington, D.C., junior high into a charter school shows how school choice ultimately may benefit, most of all, children the education establishment mourns as “those left behind” – i.e., public-schoolchildren who stay in place.
Under Principal Cecile Middleton, Paul Junior High has pulled itself above the general morass of D.C. schools the past decade, but the school’s patrons and staff want to fly higher. Finding themselves stymied by the central office at every turn, they decided to apply for charter school status, which would free Paul from most bureaucratic rules. Enter Arlene Ackerman, the D.C. superintendent who recently seems to be making progress where so many have floundered.
The superintendent views the prospective departure of a school and its funds as a setback in her efforts to help the system as a whole. But rather than simply putting rocks in the path, she’s been offering change — “a cutting-edge curriculum,” which Paul’s patrons could choose instead of going the charter route. More recently, Ms. Ackerman has offered to split the school between her plan and the charter. These moves may not satisfy charter advocates but they are signs of a school administration willing to negotiate – and to innovate.
The Washington experience shows clearly why independent boards, not self-interested local school districts, should issue the charters.
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