Charter schools are not generally known for their athletic programs–many do not even field teams–but in Washington, D.C., where charter schools now enroll 38 percent of public school students, charter school basketball has gone big time… in some schools.
As Josh Barr and Alan Goldenbach of the Washington Post wrote last week
At most of the District’s charter schools, sports are little more than an afterthought. However, a few are seeking to use athletics to increase their enrollments and raise their profiles, and with little to no oversight, they are able to skirt residency and eligibility rules that govern other high schools in the area.
In the sports as afterthought category is IDEA Public Charter School, where players spend 30 minutes on a bus to get to a gym in Maryland for basketball practice and games. IDEA is a member of the Washington Charter School Athletic Association (WCSAA). In this league, teams sometimes disband midseason and even friends and family find it hard to attend games since the rented gyms are not close to public transportation.
Some D.C. charter schools with grander athletic aspirations have declined to compete in the boys charter school basketball league organized by the WCSAA, choosing instead to operate as independents and compete primarily against private schools. Two charter schools taking this route—the Kamit Institute for Magnificient Achievers (KIMA) and Friendship Collegiate—have built their basketball programs in part by enrolling top athletes who previously lived in Maryland and Virginia, Barr and Goldenbach report—students who may not be meeting the residency requirements for D.C. public charter schools and who may have already played four years of high school basketball before enrolling in their new schools.
The Washington Post articles appeared in the paper’s sports section, and the authors are mostly concerned with whether the KIMA and Friendship basketball teams are fielding players who should be deemed ineligible. It’d be interesting to learn whether the students enrolling in these schools in order to play basketball are ending up better educated.