Yesterday, the deputy mayor for education (DME) made the announcement official: the cross-sector task force, to coordinate how charters and DCPS work together, is now ready to roll.
The task force consists of 26 members, chaired by DME Jennifer Niles and former mayor Anthony Williams. The DME is the founder and former head of the E.L. Haynes charter school. The former mayor recently penned a Post op-ed noting that DC school reforms are working, as evidenced in the latest test results, and has been a proponent of school vouchers.
Of the task force’s 26 members, selected from more than 100 applicants, just seven are identified as parents with no other official role in school issues, whether as an employee or agent of a school or city agency or as an employee of an education advocacy organization. Less than half of the total–11 members by my count–have current connections to DCPS. About the same number–10 members by my count–have current connections to charter schools or advocacy organizations. (According to the DME FAQ sheet on the task force, DC charter schools educate 45% of DC public education students; DCPS educates 55%.)
The press release from the DME quoted Mayor Bowser saying that the task force will “learn from what’s best in each sector in order to give all students and families what they need and deserve–a world class public education system.” (Admirable as that sentiment is, it kind of skips over the, um, urgency that some parents, including this one, felt when calling for such coordination last year.)
The group will begin its meetings in January, according to the following schedule: January 26, February 23, March 22, April 26, May 24, June 28, July 26, August 23, September 27. It is slated to continue meeting through July 2017. All meetings are open to the public (thanks to a ruling by the Office of Open Government and a concerned citizen who filed a complaint).
The schedule, along with other information, is available at the task force’s FAQ page. In addition, the DME’s website lists a number of ways for the public to get involved, including focus groups and community meetings.
Here’s hoping that this task force is as productive and inclusive as the last city-wide education group to tackle such urgent issues–the boundaries commission.