Families from suburban Washington, D.C., are paying tuition to send their children to Duke Ellington School of the Arts. It is one of the District of Columbia's public high schools.Many younger residents have moved to the District in the last 10-plus years, thanks to a resurgent demand for urban living and policies that have encouraged residential growth. For many at or nearing the age of having children, one question above all determines whether they will remain in D.C. or decamp to the suburbs: "Are D.C. schools good enough for our children?" Recently, however, there's been a change to this thinking. The Duke Ellington School of the Arts has risen to the top of many parents' lists, and surprisingly, if they live outside the District (in Maryland or Virginia), some are even willing to pay tuition for it. During the 2016-17 school year, only seven tuition-paying students living in Maryland and Virginia attended the following public schools in D.C.: Hart Elementary, Garfield Elementary, Burrville Elementary, Browne Education Center, and two magnet high schools, Banneker and the School Without Walls. Duke Ellington School of the Arts, on the other hand, had 45 tuition payers. Duke Ellington School limits tuition-payers to no more than 10 percent of its total enrollment. The Duke Ellington School of the Arts (established 1974) is located at 35th Street and R Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C., and is a public high school dedicated to arts education. It is named for the American jazz bandleader and composer Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (1899–1974), a native of Washington, D.C. Hundreds of students want to attend the nationally known campus because graduates of the school are prepared to pursue an artistic and theatric occupation. In addition to completing the traditional public school curriculum, students must audition for and complete studies in one of the following artistic areas: dance, literary media and communications, museum studies, instrumental music, vocal music, theater, technical design and production, and visual arts.
Only 190 of 610 applicants were admitted to the ninth and 10th grades last year, and the upper grades don’t accept new students. The school had a total of 525 students last year.[caption id="attachment_3133" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Trumpeter Geraldo Marshall and trombonist Johannes Utas, students at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, rehearse for their school's 40th anniversary celebration.
LAUREN MIGAKI / NPR[/caption] Two of the other six D.C. schools with tuition-payers, School Without Walls and Banneker, are high-performing selective magnets. The remaining four are neither magnets nor high-performing, but there are other reasons to pay tuition to public schools. Parents might have moved out of the city but want to leave their child in a school where they're comfortable. The location and hours of their jobs or child-care arrangements might make the school the most convenient, or the school might have a special program or team of teachers better at filling a child’s special needs than any school they can find in their own district. Duke Ellington School of the Arts was recognized by U.S. News as one of the top schools in the nation and as the No. 3 best school in the District of Columbia. David Chappelle, singer Denyce Graves, actor Lammon Rucker, and author Ruth Chew are all notable alumni. Today, there are several dozen suburban families paying an average of $11,000 a year in tuition to send their kids there. Tuition-payers simply seem happy to be there, no matter what their neighbors might think about attending a D.C. school.