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Debate Over Charter School Transparency Rooted In D.C.’s Struggle For Local Governance

For years, D.C. officials and members of the public have struggled with transparency issues within the ballooning charter school system.

Now, after the unexpected announcement that D.C.’s only unionized charter school is closing this June, teachers, activists and other members of the community are making transparency a top issue.

The D.C. Public Charter School Board says it’s responding to public feedback, noting that officials are proposing new measures to increase transparency in the city later this month. Critics of the board, however, say the current proposal doesn’t go far enough, leaving out key issues like open meetings and public records.

Across the country, most states have laws requiring charter schools to have open meetings, public records and public vendor contracts. But D.C. doesn’t, and part of that is because of the way charter laws were designed by federal officials back in 1995.

It’s those same charter laws that have made it difficult for transparency advocates to see many changes since then.