Proposed Ballot Measure: Elected School Board

Today, schools activist Peter MacPherson sent a missive (below) to members of the city council and the mayor. In it, he proposes a ballot measure for an elected school board that (presumably) would have control of both sectors of public schools in DC.

Given the current state of opacity (and occasional corruption) in DC public schools (see here and here and here for starters), and without much change since 2002 in DC’s achievement gap, such a ballot measure may prove rather popular–well, at least among the vast majority of DC citizens who will never be appointed to the charter board or selected as chancellor or elected as mayor or admitted to the circle of trust for private money and public education decision making in DC (despite our overwhelming tax dollar stake in paying for DC public education).

Stay tuned.

Dear Mayor Bowser and Chairman Mendelson:

In 2007 the Council of the District of Columbia voted to eliminate the elected school board and give direct control of the schools to the mayor. On January 20, 2016 I intended to file with the Board of Elections a request to place on the ballot a measure that would bring back an elected school board and end mayoral control of the former.

After discussion with groups and individuals around the city it is apparent to me that there is significant dissatisfaction with how our schools are being operated under this governance models. And those criticisms are familiar ones. The budget has remained hopelessly opaque. The school modernization program has favored the more affluent parts of the city and a spectacular degree of waste has been tolerated in the program. There is also no defensible process in selecting the schools to be modernized or the sums to be spent on them. There is great concern over the degree of turnover among administration and staff in the schools.

And there is the widespread feeling that meaningful oversight of the schools is not being provided by the council. Controversies such as cheating on the DCCAS and the huge overages in the school food services have only received cursory examination. The education committee is viewed by many as a body that effectively has one member, that being the chairman.

I have no sense of the outcome of this effort. But at least the voters will have the chance to decide on mayoral control’s fate, a choice denied them in 2007. And such an effort will allow a proper dialogue on the future of education in the District of Columbia, one that has not been taking place.


Peter MacPherson

One thought on “Proposed Ballot Measure: Elected School Board

  1. As a matter of fact, the Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007 provides for “A comprehensive evaluation of public education following the passage of this act; and A determination as to whether sufficient progress in public education has been achieved to warrant continuation of the provisions and requirements of this act or whether a new law, and a new system of education, should be enacted by the District government.” PERAA, TITLE II Sec 204 (b) (1), (2)

    In addition, Bowser’s campaign education platform paper included, albeit last, in its 15 points on education: Evaluate Model of School Governance ending with “lead an effort to evaluate the current model of school governance in the District to ensure that all pieces of the school governance apparatus fit together in a way that positions the school system and its students for long term success.”

    Between the NCR’s An Evaluation of the District of Columbia’s Public Schools: Reform in a Changing Landscape and the DC Auditor’s most recent report from last July on School Modernization, Report Number DCA 282015, not mention the Washington City Paper’s December 11, 2015 issue raising big questions about who’s really “in control” and the composition of the CS Task Force, there is research aplenty that major problems exist in mayoral control.

    My “favorite” though is the desecration of democracy that exists in citziens having the “right” to vote for an elected body grandly called the “State” Board of Education that has even less power than the ANC’s! They can at least, by law, advise the Mayor and all other parts of the government whereas our voice goes nowhere on the current Board.

    I’m ready for a formal city-wide “citizens evaluation” and I thank Peter for his initiative and this blog for writing about it!


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