D.C.’s public charter school system turns 20

Photo Credit: Astrid Riecken / The Washington Post

Photo Credit: Astrid Riecken / The Washington Post

The Washington Post's Perry Stein recognized the D.C. Public Charter school's 20th year in an article detailing the districts humble beginnings. Stein noted that in the 1990's widely underperforming city schools and surrounding communities rampant with drugs and violence continued to send the city's poorest neighborhoods into continuous a downward spiral.

Real estate developer and activist, Malcolm “Mike” Peabody, blamed the city's problems on failing schools and a lack of opportunities for poor black residents. He believed that this was a matter of civil rights and made plans to mend these impoverished neighborhoods by improving schools. However he initially thought pursuing this project would be impossible, given the hold the teachers union had on the school system. 

His solution existed in the belief that public education that could exist outside the D.C. Public Schools. He began a local charter school advocacy organization, becoming one of the leading voices in the school-choice education movement, which advocated for schools that could receive public funding but function apart from a traditional public school system’s bureaucracy.

“This was the next major thing in civil rights,” said Peabody, now 88. “I’m not for charter schools, I’m for a better education.”

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