How Many Vacant Public Charter School Seats Are There?

(A look at PCS capacity and a response to the 21st Century School Fund’s analysis)

Existing public charter school capacity

Citywide, public charter schools fill 81% of their buildings with 9,579 total vacant seats. Higher quality public charter schools fill more of their spaces: Tier 1 public charter schools fill 89% of their buildings compared to 64% of Tier 3.

Over half of all vacant seats are not truly vacant, but instead represent seats that will be filled in the future, seats that aren’t filled because of enrollment ceiling constraints, or seats at buildings with less than an empty classroom.

Vacant Public Charter Seats by Tier, SY16-17

Tier Vacant Seats
Tier 1 2,117
Tier 2 4,023
Tier 3 976
Untiered 2,464
Total 9,579

Capacity at Tier 1 public charter schools

Only 2,117 (or 22%) of all vacant seats are at Tier 1 schools.  

  • But only 284 (just 12%) of these Tier 1 seats are truly vacant
  • The majority (88%) of Tier 1 vacant seats are currently unfilled for understandable reasons:
    • LEA is still growing (56% of vacant Tier 1 seats)  
    • LEA is constrained by enrollment ceiling (28% of vacant Tier 1 seats)  
    • Six Tier 1 schools have fewer than 20 vacant seats

Capacity in Wards 7 and 8

A recent 21st Century School Fund analysis claims that the number of vacant seats in Wards 7 and 8 indicates that students living in these Wards do not need any more public charter schools.  

However, there are fewer vacant seats at charters and most vacant seats are not at high quality schools.

  • Approximately a third of the vacant seats in Wards 7 and 8 are public charter school seats: most of the vacant seats are at DCPS schools (DCPS vacant seats as calculated by 21st Century School Fund).  
  • Public charter schools have more students enrolled and fewer vacant seats in Wards 7 and 8 when compared to DCPS: the utilization rate for public charter school buildings is higher at 82% compared to DCPS rate of 68% in Wards 7 and 8.
  • Of the 3,464 vacant seats, only 1,635 (47%) are truly vacant.  The remainder represent seats that will be filled in the future, seats that aren’t filled because of enrollment ceiling constraints, or seats at buildings with less than an empty classroom.
  • Quality concern: 77% of vacant public charter school seats in Wards 7 and 8 are at non-Tier 1 schools. Quality seats are still needed. 

 

Definitions

  • Vacant seats are the difference between enrollment and program capacity for a building
  • Program capacity is self-reported by charter LEAs to DC PCSB in the annual facility survey, and defined as the maximum number of students who can be served at the facility given the school’s current facility and existing educational programs, class size, and staffing
  • Enrollment ceiling is the maximum number of students for whom a school can receive payment
  • Utilization rate is calculated by dividing the facility’s enrollment by its program capacity

 

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