DC Policy Center

Fast facts about the #PreferenceEquity legislation

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

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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.