Margie Yeager is a Partner with our Advocacy grant making team.
This week, DC Council unanimously passed legislation to create a lottery preference for at-risk students (students who are in foster care, experience homelessness, receive food support via SNAP and TANF, or — for high school students — who are overage and undercredited). This is good news for DC’s students and families, especially as we face unprecedented times.
Here are four fast facts about the #PreferenceEquity legislation, or Expanding Equitable Access to Great Schools Act of 2020.
1. At-risk students need more access to sought-after schools.
In School Year 2018-2019, only one in four at-risk students attended a four- or five-star school, compared to nearly 60 percent of DC’s non-at-risk students. And, at-risk students are less likely to live in-boundary for a four- or five-star school, so entering the lottery is the sole means of accessing higher-performing public schools.
2. The preference could result in a ten-fold increase in the match rate of at-risk students at highly desirable schools.
The DC Policy Center simulated what such a preference would mean for at-risk students at a highly desirable charter school with a long waiting list. The result is a ten-fold increase in the match rate of at-risk students. The model projects that an at-risk lottery preference after the sibling preference results in 61 percent of the pre-K3 class serving students who are at-risk. Implementing the at-risk preference before the sibling preference results in 100 percent of the class being at-risk.
(Education Forward DC is a funder of the DC Policy Center and funded this report.)
3. Eight in 10 DC voters support the Equity Preference — and so do school leaders
According to October 2020 polling commissioned by Education Forward DC, eight in 10 DC voters support an equity lottery preference. School leaders at high-performing charter schools have also signaled support for such a preference.
4. DCPS is already making important steps in equity-focused preferences
The legislation, if passed, would be voluntary for charter schools to opt-into. Traditional public schools in DCPS can already utilize such a preference without legislation and DCPS opened the new Stevens school this year with such a preference in place.
DC Council will consider the legislation again next month for a second reading and the bill will be up for a final vote. Here’s to seeing how city officials, families, and schools can come together to support the students furthest from opportunity.