Recent & Upcoming Events (Chopping Wood Edition*)

–On June 29 at 11 am, the DC council will hold a roundtable on vaccinations for DC students. Immunization rates in DC’s schools are horribly low. Whether the result of ignorance, propaganda, or access (or some combination thereof), this reality portends nothing less than avoidable tragedy. With vaccination rates for DC’s school kids in January around 77%, DC has been missing the threshold of 95% vaccination to establish herd immunity for deadly diseases like measles and polio. Expect interesting words from the folks who delayed mandating covid testing, vaccination, and masks in our schools (and don’t exactly like following the law regarding reporting it, either).

–The DC state board of education (SBOE) has a survey regarding education governance in DC, with responses due by July 8. Take it here.

The SBOE also has another open survey, on academic standards, in the wake of it revising social studies standards in DC. Take that survey here.

–In May, DC’s office of the state superintendent of education (OSSE) came out with a report on DC’s teacher work force. You can read EmpowerEd’s excellent summary here. [NEW late-day addition: You can also read Mary Levy’s superb analysis here.]

To be sure, there were a few oddities:

OSSE went to great lengths to disaggregate data by ward, but not by sector, to provide what the report called a “macro” view. But since the sectors themselves are very “macro” (not to mention have different teacher pay, evaluations, and certification), that “macro” view omitted information and obscured trends. Not to mention that wards are wildly different in terms of sector (i.e. Ward 3 has no charters while Ward 5 has more charters than DCPS schools) and that where students live is often not the ward their schools are in.

Also, the report defined “experienced” teachers as “those with more than 0 [yes, zero] years of experience and who earned a higher evaluation rating than “ineffective” in their first year of teaching.” By this (low bar) definition, 90% of teachers in DC are “experienced” even with only 1 year of teaching. Given high teacher turnover in DC, that suggests the report itself is as much about PR as it is about any actionable data that policymakers can use to make meaningful decisions.

(But given the recent primary election results, maybe all that was mission accomplished? After all, this is the same crowd that doesn’t collect education data reliably or consistently for public consumption, which results in stuff like this, brought to you from this report. Be sure to take a moment to appreciate the “rounds to zero” note.)

–In the wake of KIPP DC redeveloping the closed Ferebee-Hope property in a sweetheart deal brought about by our newly re-elected mayor, residents earlier this year found that KIPP DC’s re-created rec center there was not what they expected–and in a bad way (see here and here for excellent reporting by Sam Collins).

Then, in late spring, they got a further surprise: uncontrolled dust from the demolition of the old school. (See here and here for details.)

Given the mayor’s primary election win and how KIPP DC’s personnel have shown Mayor Bowser so much, erm, love over the years (with much of it happily requited), expect continued prosperity . . . for KIPP DC.

–On June 21, DCPS held a public meeting on traffic around the new high school for Ward 3.

Well, at least I *think* the meeting was held. The link provided via DCPS’s planning website here didn’t work for me and at least one other person. Charmingly, the DCPS contact for the meeting never responded to my email asking what happened (no bounce!)–but the website now has the information about that meeting on it (albeit without my feedback–naturally).

While I am glad someone somewhere attended that meeting, it wouldn’t be the first time for obscurity around this school’s planning. For instance, here’s the chat for the May 11 meeting, which took more emails to get than I care to think about and is still not posted anywhere on that website. But hey! The mayor just got re-elected, so expect more obfuscation and difficult-to-access public meetings justifying an unneeded public high school in the ward with the highest private school participation rates, wealthiest households, and some of the fewest kids in the city.

–Speaking of power and money—oops, I mean the election:

In the run-up to the primary election, our household received 9 campaign flyers from DFER DC: 4 for Mayor Muriel Bowser and 5 for Phil Mendelson, chair of the DC council.

In fact, they were the ONLY 2 candidates sending flyers to us who had DFER DC sponsorship.

(They were also the only 2 candidates sending flyers to us whose flyers also had DC association of realtors sponsorship. Coincidence? I think not.)

Already this year, DFER DC has spent about $1 MILLION on DC’s elections, with more likely to come before the end of the year. Some of it was spent literally saying that Mendelson did things he actually worked against. Naturally, he and the mayor were re-elected.

At this juncture, if you don’t know what DFER is (lucky you), here’s a good primer. If you have less time, check this out as well as this.

–And speaking of political power for DC school privatizing:

The DC Charter School Alliance in April started its own independent expenditure committee (IEC) for donations to politicians called DC Charter School Action, set up as a 501(c)(4) organization. In literally its first MONTH of existence, the DC Charter School Action IEC raked in more than $300,000.

Interestingly, the IEC’s chair appears to be Shannon Hodge—who is also the executive director of the DC Charter School Alliance, with both groups sharing a physical address. The treasurer (and/or executive director) of the IEC is Ariel Johnson, who is also apparently the chief of staff for the alliance, which itself is a member organization for DC’s charter schools, which pay dues to it of (publicly unknown) amounts.

So it appears that public money going to DC charter schools is being sent (in publicly unknown amounts, as cash) to one private organization that advocates for charters and then *also* passed along (in publicly unknown amounts, as at least personnel expenditures) to another private organization that gives political donations, thereby completing the DC circle of political life by ending up in the campaign coffers of the elected officials who approve the budgets that ensure that DC’s charter schools annually receive about $1 BILLION of DC taxpayer money. Hakuna matata!

Not surprisingly, the organizations disagree with that characterization.

In a tweet on June 8, the alliance account noted that “DC Charter School Action is a separate organization from the DC Charter School Alliance, with its own fundraising. No public dollars or member dues are used to fund its work. DC Charter School Action exists to support candidates who believe in education equity and support school choice for every District student.”

Also on June 8, the alliance account promised to have a funding report for the IEC “in the coming weeks.”


As with Republicans, who seem to find everything about democracy more agreeable under the soothing ministrations of extra-democratic actions that favor them (e.g. January 6), this effort appears to be much the same. After all, if DC taxpayers really want charter schools, why do we even need these organizations? (Though this does make one wonder what DC would look like if everyone who is elected and appointed here actually represents all the people who actually live and pay taxes here.)

(*Much gratitude to Camille Joyner, from whom I learned this phrase and received an abiding example of its meaning.)

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