Charter Schools:

Oversight Practices in the District of Columbia

GAO-05-490: Published: May 19, 2005. Publicly Released: May 19, 2005.

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As required by the 2005 D.C. Appropriations Act, we examined the performance of D.C. charter school authorizers in their approval and oversight roles. In fall 2005, we will publish the full results of our research. However, as required by law, we provided Congress with an interim report on our work. For this interim report, we addressed the following questions: (1) what are the responsibilities specified for the D.C. charter school authorizers in the School Reform Act? and (2) how are the D.C. authorizers carrying out these responsibilities?

In summary, we found that the School Reform Act outlines the responsibilities of the D.C. charter school authorizers. The law requires that the authorizers review charter school applications and approve qualified applicants. Additionally, the law requires the D.C. Board of Education (BOE) and the D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB) to monitor charter schools and determine if charters should be renewed or revoked. The authorizers are also required by the School Reform Act to create and distribute annual reports on their activities. Also, we found that although the authorizers carry out their responsibilities in different manners, both the BOE and PCSB have developed processes to meet their legal responsibilities. Each authorizer has established timelines, guidance, and procedures for reviewing and approving charter school applications. Additionally, both authorizers conduct annual and 5-year monitoring reviews to ensure that charter schools are complying with applicable laws, achieving student academic goals, and using sound financial practices. The BOE has revoked charters of schools that fail to meet required standards, and the PCSB is in the process of revoking a school's charter. Finally, each year both authorizers have created annual reports that include the information required by the School Reform Act.

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