I chose not to complete a questionnaire from Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) for the same reason I did not seek their endorsement — because I see the group as a deeply corrosive force in education policy in DC.
DFER represents a right-wing corporate effort to weaken public schools. DFER spends enormous sums of money — mostly raised from corporate right-wing sources outside of DC — to influence local electoral outcomes, creating an outsize impact for a small organization that doesn’t represent DC stakeholders. Their tactics are often harsh and divisive. Just this year, DFER spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on campaign mailers against Janeese Lewis George in the Ward 4 Democratic primary, twisting her words, misleading voters, and stoking fears about her reasonable call to address police brutality and reimagine public safety without over-policing. These scare tactics and unfair smear attacks were irresponsible and shameful and have no place in our local elections.
My vision for our public education system also differs from DFER in profound ways. I believe that we must address education inequity with a recognition of the impacts of systemic racism on academic achievement and by providing investments to address that. I believe that strong neighborhood schools must be the heart of our public education system and that budgets and policies must focus on strengthening public schools rather than divesting from them. I believe that a world-class school system must listen to and support teachers and school staff, and that includes working hand-in-hand with their unions.
I want us to talk seriously about the best approaches to the complex goal of achieving education equity in DC. DFER has undermined that conversation with repeated unfair attacks. Their behavior punishes candidates for having these open conversations. Our community can do better, and that means resisting their interference in our elections.
My vision and priorities for public education in DC are clear. I have completed several other education-related questionnaires, including from the Washington Teachers Union, the Coalition for DC Schools, and the DC Charter School Alliance, and I will continue to participate in education-related campaign forums. But I am not seeking DFER’s endorsement or participating in their questionnaire process because I am accountable to DC residents, not to deep-pocketed outside interests. We get to choose the politics we want. I am not for sale, and our politics are not for sale.