This Week In DC Edu-Drama: Down The Rabbit Hole

–Tomorrow, December 2, the DC council’s education committee will hold a hearing on DCPS re-opening. It comes as DCPS has repeatedly not involved major stakeholders (i.e., parents, teachers, students) in its re-opening plans and has announced different dates for re-opening, different numbers of schools re-opening, and different scenarios of cleaning, HVAC, and readiness. Taken together, these things suggest that DCPS leaders have no idea what they’re doing.

Unfortunately, the body charged with DCPS oversight does not appear to have any better ideas.

On October 2, for instance, the DC council held a hearing on distance learning, after massive pushes to ensure digital equity (still waiting). Then, on October 23 in the midst of protests and petitions to ensure a safe-reopening, the council held a hearing on DCPS re-opening—but only with government witnesses.

Then, in November, at large council member Elissa Silverman introduced legislation (charmingly excluded from DC’s online legislative database, but available here) that would have outlined data, metrics, and timetables for re-opening and ensured buy-in from stakeholders–only to have council chair Phil Mendelson refuse to move it.

So it should come as utterly NO surprise that the council’s December 2 hearing is ostensibly for the public, but was limited to 30 public witnesses—at least one of whom signed up at the last minute, while others who signed up early on didn’t make the list.

(Because nothing says democracy like limiting public voices.)

–And speaking of the council education committee: outgoing co-chair David Grosso has recused himself from a number of pieces of legislation, apparently due to his possible upcoming gig as an employee of Arent Fox, which not only lobbies on behalf of our charter schools, but makes lots of nice donations to our elected officials.

(BTW, how does that work, going from oversight to lobbying in one fell swoop?)

–In the wake of a petition to the mayor and chancellor being circulated by someone (local, presumably) to hurry up and open DCPS already, there is evidence that the few classes that DCPS has re-opened are slowly but surely being affected by covid. See here for reporting of the other day and here for more recent (and alarming) reports. Given that there appears to be no concerted effort to test and trace in DCPS, it is a reasonable supposition that in person instruction may not end well–and possibly quickly.

–One of the rationales for the current, in person DCPS classes was that at least some students would have both digital equipment and internet access for distance learning. But in her testimony for Digital Equity in DC Education for the recent DCPS budget hearing, Grace Hu (mom & tireless volunteer) noted that not only has DCPS never reached a 1:1 ratio for digital devices, but also is not ensuring that its families who are eligible for the city’s reduced-price Internet for All program are getting it.

That means potentially thousands of families not being served who could be, while money is spent for hotspots that otherwise wouldn’t need to be spent–all the while in person learning to address digital connectivity for a far smaller fraction of students is exacting a (potentially deadly) health toll.


2 thoughts on “This Week In DC Edu-Drama: Down The Rabbit Hole

  1. Oh boy: “How do you know when folks signed up?” Not a lot of great options IMO: One can ask and hope they deign to respond. One can also submit a FOIA request and hope they respond before they leave office (because deadline for FOIA right now = infinity).

    OR one can do both *and* lobby the council to

    1. Make all requests to sign-up for hearings public as a matter of fact (rather than after the fact maybe possibly hopefully) and
    2. Not allow any official to tweak witness lists to his or her preference without a note to the public as to how and why.

    I get this is a tough time, but clearly, *people in the Wilson bldg. are right now/have been tweaking witness lists and thus spending time on this already.* They just need to share that with the public in whose name they’re (supposedly) doing it.


  2. We have a Council that was perfectly OK with overturning the will of the voters on Prop 77, just like Trump is now trying to do with the presidential election, so I don’t expect much in the way of including the public in decisions about such things as re-opening DCPS for in-school instruction or any of the business it conducts in the public’s name. Nor do I expect much interest in overseeing the distribution of the tools/technology necessary for virtual learning, and certainly not for something as science-based and necessary as actual criteria for when re-opening might occur as safely as possible, like that put forward by CM Silverman and I thank you for the link to her draft bill.
    On the sunny side, there’ll be a new crew in January and it will be a different, if not better, Council. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see if the publicly funded campaigns have made for better, more publicly focused, rather than mayor cowed, legislators.


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