Parents, students and teachers cannot afford business as usual. Without an active Council Chair, our students will continue to struggle
Our schools are struggling, leaving many of our children to suffer the consequences. Ten years into school reform, the difference in achievement between students of color and white students is vast, and too many students are not graduating. Rather than ensure that every student is able to get a high-quality education, parents are forced to gamble on their child’s future through the school lottery. And there is a troubling lack of transparency and information about what’s happening in our schools, both DCPS and public charter schools.
As the school scandals have continued to mount, the biggest one of them all is the failure to make improving our schools the number one priority. We cannot expect better results without a change in leadership at the head of the Council.
Phil Mendelson, as chair of the Council, should have been holding the mayor accountable for improving all schools and closing the achievement gap. Yet we have to ask: Where has he been on education for the last 6 years? Too often, he’s been missing in action.
Let’s take a closer look:
Failure to Give Schools the Resources they Need: Over the past decade, school funding increases have been uneven, not tied to what students really need. To this day, schools from Wilson to Ballou are getting less than what’s recommended, putting our children at a disadvantage. Where was Phil?
Failure to Demand Accountability to Support Schools in Low-income Communities: DCPS consistently has taken up to half of funds intended to supplement services at high-poverty schools -- “at-risk” funds -- and shifted them elsewhere. Where was Phil to stop that?
Failure to Demand School Data Transparency: It should not take multiple scandals uncovered by the news media to get the Council to snap into action. There is an information vacuum on what is really happening in our schools, both DCPS and public charter schools, a problem we’ve known for years. Where was Phil before the scandals broke?
Failure to Hold Administration Officials Accountable for Cheating the Lottery System: Several senior Bowser Administration officials skipped the school lottery and received preferential treatment. The Chancellor violated the very policy he wrote. The silence from our Chair was deafening. Where was Phil?
Instead of working to use the Council’s power to better fund schools, come up with creative policy solutions, and hold the Mayor accountable for meaningful reforms, Phil has watched from the sidelines as DC’s schools have struggled to ensure that every child gets the education they deserve.
On the issues that matter most to working families, from education to affordable housing, we can’t afford anymore to have a Chair who passes the buck.
I pledge to be a Council Chair who puts schools first. As the father of two sons who went through DC public schools; as a PTA leader; as a Local School Advisory Team (LSAT) chair and an advocate who has fought to close the achievement gap, I know that every child deserves a fair chance, starting with access to a great education regardless of zip code."