City Desk

City Lights Public Charter Closes Tomorrow

The City Lights Public Charter School closes tomorrow. And when the school for at-risk youth closes, I wonder: will that mean the end to getting a straight answer as to why it shut down. Last Wednesday, the Post's Bill Turque did a solid job trying to suss out a reason:

"The collapse of City Lights, housed in a former Catholic elementary school on T Street NE, has triggered a round of finger-pointing and second-guessing among school and District officials over alleged mismanagement."

Turque pointed to a set of numbers that don't add up. And we're never adequately explained. A lot of kids are going to get dumped into the public school system. These kids are going to need specialized help. How many of these kids will graduate?

Turque wrote:

"This year, like all charter schools, City Lights received a per-pupil allocation of $10,200 from the District, along with a $3,100-a-head facilities allowance. It got an additional $20,000 for each special education student. City Lights executive director Iris Lewis said that although that seems like a lot of money, it never quite covers the cost of maintaining such a specialized staff. The school got far less than the $2.2 million it expected after city auditors found records for 47 students rather than the 75 the school based its budget on.

'Unfortunately, students have to pay the price for their bad management of the student data,' said Jeremy Williams, finance manager for the charter board."

Is that what happened, bad management of the student data? How can a school close mid-year without a thorough investigation?

I attended a Family Court hearing recently for a kid who used to attend City Lights. He had long transferred out of that school to another private school in Maryland. He told the judge that he'd like to leave that school as well. The judge and the teenager's lawyers scratched their heads. The judge said there was no way he could attend his local public high school—Ballou.

She said Ballou wasn't safe. I would agree with the judge's assessment. He wouldn't make it at Ballou. I now wonder what is going to happen to the kids forced out of City Lights.

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