Story at a glance

  • About 40 percent of students in D.C. attend either their in-boundary school or another school closer to their homes, according to a new study.
  • Many other parents use the school voucher program to send their children to schools further away from home.
  • The study found that parents are increasingly sending children to schools with lower populations of at-risk students, taking school resources with them.

When Congress created a school voucher program in 2004 for D.C. public schools, critics said it would lead to greater inequality in education. A new study by the Center for Research and Reform in Education suggests they had good reason to worry. 

Less than half of students in D.C. — about 40 percent — attend either their in-boundary school or another school that is closer to their homes, according to the study, showing that the school-choice option is popular in the District. 

The study found that enrollment declined for schools with large percentages of at-risk students. Since enrollment numbers are tied to the allocation of funding and other resources, this means there are fewer resources each year for schools serving the largest percentages of at-risk students.

The study comes two years after a 2018 report projecting enrollment for D.C. public schools and uses enrollment data from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and MySchoolDC, the school enrollment lottery. 

Another finding was that schools with greater proportions of at-risk and black students experienced higher year-to-year student mobility than schools serving lower proportions of at-risk and black students. 

“Schools with highly mobile student populations may need more resources to support students, both academically and in terms of social-emotional development,” the study said. 

However, if that movement is happening away from those schools, they are losing resources when they need them the most. 

The report called on Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. council to address the increasing inequity in funding and resources for schools serving large percentages of at-risk students. 

“Additional policies are needed to address the inequities that can result from longstanding patterns of residential segregation and the more recent pattern of families selecting away from schools serving the largest concentrations of at-risk students,” the study said.

Published on Jan 09, 2020