See The State Board Of Education Candidates Duke It Out: September 20

[Ed. Note 9/18: MANY apologies to readers! I thought this event was for all the state board of ed. candidates–turns out, it’s just for Ward 6 candidates. Many apologies.]

On Thursday, September 20, starting at 7 pm, candidates for the state board of education will debate the issues at the Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave, SE.

The public is invited to submit questions via email, to debate@hillrag.com. (Be sure to put “school board” into the subject line.)

There are some, um, interesting aspects of the state board races thus far:

–There’s a candidate with a current contract with the charter board (Jessica Sutter, Ward 6).

–Another candidate (Jason Andrean, Ward 1) has raised more than $50,000 just in contributions equal to or greater than $100. Given that candidates for this race can only accept contributions of $200 or less, this is rather amazing. And, with only about a third of Andrean’s donors hailing from DC, his outside DC contributions take on an outsize role, amounting to about twice the total of his closest Ward 1 competitor, Emily Gasoi.

So hit the keyboards and email those questions! Here are the ones I submitted:

1. What are your thoughts on school closures?

2. If the mayor orders one or more DCPS schools to close, how will you react? Does it make a difference to you what ward those closures are in? If so, why?

3. In 2017, the charter board identified wards 1, 4, 6 and 8 as a “green zones” for charter school growth and location. (See here.) The charter board determined those “green zones” without any public input from anyone in those wards and with evidence that charter school proliferation results in DCPS school underenrollment and closure. How do you feel about the charter board’s policy?

4. Lack of funding for public schools has been nearly an annual problem in every ward. How would you want this to be addressed systemically?

5. Do you think charter schools are equivalent to DCPS schools? Please explain.

6. This spring, during a council education hearing, the chair of the education committee, David Grosso, noted that he gets “threats” from Congress every time DC makes rules for its charter schools. (See here.) As you may recall, no one in DC voted to have charter schools–rather, we got charter schools through a law drafted by a senator from Louisiana. Do you think elected representatives of DC residents have the right and power to makes rules about DC charter schools? Please explain.

7. The mayor has convened a chancellor selection panel to help advise her and review candidate resumes. According to a lawsuit (complaint is here) brought by DCPS parents and students and a DCPS teacher, the current panel does not comply with the law. (See the code here.) The law states the panel should consist of parents, teachers, and students. Right now, it has only one teacher, one student, and a few parents comprising a minority of spaces; some of the panelists who are not teachers, parents or students have donated thousands of dollars to the mayor, while one panelist is an employee of a charter school. How do you feel about this?

8. Late last year (2017), a closed DCPS school (Kenilworth) was offered to a charter school by DCPS, as encouraged by the deputy mayor for education. This offer violated two DC laws: one that demands the city council approve the excessing of school facilities (Kenilworth is not excess property) and a law that demands all excessed DCPS schools are offered to charters through an RFO process. (See here.) How do you feel about DC education leaders doing this?

9. This year, communities in DC were not officially notified of a charter school locating in their midst before the scheduled charter board vote on it. The charter board has specified that charter schools must notify ANCs and other community stakeholders before schools are voted on by the charter board–but in one case that I know of, that did not happen (e.g., see public comments on Statesman here). How do you feel about this?

10. Since 1999, the share of students attending DCPS has declined; as a result, many DCPS schools have been closed, such that children as young as 4 years old have to cross busy commuter arteries just to attend their schools of right. Given that DCPS is DC’s school system of right, what are you planning to do to ensure that a strong system of schools of right is in every neighborhood?

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