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110th Congress Rept. 110-782
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
2d Session Part 2
PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS HOME RULE ACT OF 2008
September 9, 2008.--Ordered to be printed
Mr. Waxman, from the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,
submitted the following
[To accompany H.R. 6322]
This supplemental report shows the minority views with
respect to the bill (H.R. 6322), as reported, which was not
included in part 1 of the report submitted by the Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform on July 28, 2008 (H. Rept. 110-
782, pt. 1).
District of Columbia charter schools are governed by the DC
School Reform Act of 1995 (SRA). The SRA, considered the
strongest charter school law in the nation, guarantees charter
school autonomy from District of Columbia Public Schools and
from the DC government.
H.R. 6322 amends the SRA by modifying the appointment
process for the District of Columbia Public Charter School
Board (DC PCSB) members to an unknown system to be determined
by the DC City Council.
In existence for 13 years, the DC PCSB is nationally
recognized as an exemplary authorizer of high quality public
charter schools, working efficiently to authorize first-rate
public charter schools at the same time that DC public schools
have been beset by leadership turnover and poor student
Currently, when there is a vacancy on the DC PCSB, the U.S.
Secretary of Education compiles a list of potential
replacements. In order for the Secretary to place candidates on
the list, staffs from the U.S. Department of Education confer
with colleagues to identify individuals who are knowledgeable
about public education and charter schools. Candidates are also
suggested to them from various national and local DC
organizations. A vetting process is undertaken to screen
candidates and narrow down the list. The list is then presented
to the Mayor from which to choose board members.
When this bill was introduced, the sponsor explained that
she was motivated purely by ``home rule'' considerations and
not by any concerns about the DC PCSB or the charter schools.
In fact, she heaped praise on both, stating that: ``My bill is
not intended as a criticism of the [PCSB] or its work. D.C.
residents have created huge demand. The exponential growth of
charter schools and their long waiting lists are a solid
indication of [their] success in meeting the needs of thousands
Given the widespread support for public charter schools in
the District of Columbia, many advocates are concerned about
H.R. 6322. These concerns stem from the fact that the
implementation of an unknown appointment system may endanger
objectivity in the chartering process. It's perfectly
conceivable that the Mayor, in his mission to reform DCPS,
would like to see chartering curtailed. To that end, if he had
sole discretion in appointing board members, he could appoint
individuals who are philosophically opposed to charter schools
and who would use their position to limit the number of new and
expansion charter schools.
In other jurisdictions, if a city or local school district
is opposed to chartering, charter school founders may appeal to
or apply directly to the state. Because of the District of
Columbia's unique status, power is concentrated in the Mayor
who plays the role of Governor and controls the State Education
Agency. By providing candidates for the PCSB, the U.S.
Secretary of Education is like a proxy for the state. The
Secretary serves a ``checks and balance'' function and helps to
ensure that the appointed members are not opposed to
The DC PCSB is a highly-regarded, highly-effective charter
school authorizer that serves as a model for other states.
There have been no accusations or findings of fraud,
misappropriation of funds, or any type of malfeasance by staff
or board members. To tamper with the series of checks and
balance which have proven successful for the past 13 years
could potentially impede the future success and independence of
the DC PCSB.
During the full committee markup of H.R. 6322, I offered a
nonpartisan, compromise amendment to sunset the provisions of
the bill after five years. Since the bill does not indicate
what the new appointment process will be, this balanced
amendment would have allowed Congress to evaluate the newly
established process and would have done much to alleviate the
concerns of those who worry that this bill would compromise the
success of the DC PCSB and allow for the appointment of members
hostile to charter schools. If concerns about the changes
proved unfounded, than a permanent extension of the
modifications would have been noncontroversial and allowed for
certain unanimous passage through Congress. Given the partisan
refusal to consider such a subtle amendment, I voiced my
opposition to the bill's passage and urge the majority to
reconsider its rigid, uncompromising stance on this offer.