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13 Little Chancellors

The D.C. Council once again is interfering in the education of our children by passing legislative mandates that usurp the authority and role of the Mayor and the Chancellor.

This kind of meddling has never been productive and won’t be now. What it does is set up a situation where the responsibility for education moves solely from the Mayor and the Chancellor back to being shared with 13 individuals who don’t all have expertise in education. While they may all be well meaning that isn’t enough. They aren’t educators.

The Council recently passed legislation calling for all high school students to take the SAT or ACT college entrance exams and to apply to college or another post-secondary institution in order to graduate. While this may sound like a great goal the question has to arise that with a current drop-out rate of close to 50% shouldn’t the first goal be to keep children in school? Shouldn’t we leave it to educators to make the determination on what mandates to require of students who are in high school and ready to move on to higher education? In addition to the required testing the bill the Council passed also stated that all 3 and 4 year olds be ready for kindergarten. What does that actually mean? In 1989 George H. W. Bush convened an Education Summit in Charlottesville, Virginia. He invited the nation’s Governors and business leaders and they came up with six goals. The first being; ‘All children will enter school ready to learn’. While not many of the six have been met that was one that clearly then and now still causes the most problems. The reason being that this has to do much more with families and outside influences than it does with schools and educators.

The Council has a short memory. What they agreed to only a few short years ago was that they have the right to vote to approve the Chancellor but beyond that they would stop micro-managing the schools. In abstaining from voting on the bill one member did remember that. It was reported that Councilmember Tommy Wells said, “I agree with the measure’s goals, but I don’t believe that the city council should be taking on the role of the school board. I think that it’s too possible to politicize school policy, and so in general I believe there should be a very bright line…”.

Councilmember Wells is right about this. There has to be a bright line and the Council appears to have crossed it in a way that will not benefit our students or the system. In addition the Charter School Board executive director, Scott Pearson, testified that the bill was ‘overreaching’ and did not have the support of the charter school community which today enrolls nearly 40% of D.C. public-school students.

Hopefully the Council will step back and remember what they agreed to as we move toward raising the standard of public education in the District. Unless they do this could be the first step in what could become the road back to a dysfunctional school system with too many cooks in the kitchen.