Chartering for our Youngest Learners

Could chartering be a model for providing early education programs? It is already happening.

In Washington D.C., charter and district public schools have offered early childhood education for years.  As education reporter Moriah Costa posted on, innovative programs include Montessori, bilingual immersion programs for preschoolers, and Apple Tree Institute, a charter school focusing on early childhood education.

Though preschool is optional for D.C. families, it is very popular. About 40% of families on the charter waiting list are for pre-k 3 and 4 programs, according to data from the D.C. Public Charter School Board.  That isn’t surprising when you consider that about 44% of all public schools in D.C. are charter public schools.

Both the district and charter sectors receive about $13,000 per preschool student each year. Overall, about 86% of 3- and 4-year-olds in D.C. attend a publicly funded preschool program. I wonder if this is one reason why so many families are moving back from the suburbs into the District?

The real question is this: why isn’t this happening everywhere else in the country? Regretfully, in many states, education laws prohibit charter schools from teaching preschoolers. In a recent report for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, researchers found that in 36 charter school states all but four face significant barriers to offering publicly funded preschool. Nine of those laws preclude charter schools from teaching preschool; 23 others have created other barriers in the application, approval, and funding process.

That needs to change. Find out more in Thursday’s blogpost.