22,000 Kids on D.C. Charter School Waitlist


elsie witlow stokes
Credit: DCPS

Last year in the District of Columbia, 45,557 kids attended mainline public schools. (During the same period, 34,673 kids were enrolled in charters, or 43 percent of the total public school population.)

This year, there are 22,000 kids of the waitlist for a spot at a charter school, according to the Public Charter School Board on Thursday. Since many kids are on more than one waitlist that number isn't as big at it initially seems. But it is still an unconsciounably huge number:

At Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, a top-tier school in Ward 5, every prekindergarten seat went to a sibling of a current student this year, forcing every other applicant onto the waitlist….

At the same time, schools also continue to accept applicants after their lotteries are over. At schools like E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, a top-performing school in Ward 1 offering prekindergarten through 10th grade, that means the nearly 2,000-person waitlist is still growing, said Richard Pohlman, the school's chief of operations and policy.

Waitlists like E.L. Haynes' or KIPP DC Public Charter School's 2,500-person list can make the charter school admission process daunting for parents, even causing some to turn away from charters.

That last bit means the 22,000 number may actually significantly underestimate the demand for good charters—many parents never even show up in the system. After all, popular D.C. charter have roughly the same rates of admission as top Ivy League colleges.