EDITORIAL: Citizens Deserve More than Apologies in School Lottery Tampering

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at the grand opening of the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast, the city's first all-male high school, on Aug. 22. Patricia Little
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at the grand opening of the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast, the city's first all-male high school, on Aug. 22. (Patricia Little/The Washington Informer)

When word first broke recently that former DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson had apparently misused her authority in order to give preferential treatment to the children of some of the District’s movers and shakers and placed them in more desired schools, more than a handful of eyebrows became furled with anger. Of course, those who had entered the highly competitive school lottery keeping fingers crossed and keeping hope alive while awaiting the result of where their children would be placed, have good reason to be outraged that some have been able to bypass the lottery system because they have friends in high places.

And while an investigation led by Inspector General Daniel Lucas has shown that the number of children who received special treatment and therefore were placed in the school of their choice was minimal, it still places a cloud on the entire process.

But what really has parents up in arms is the seemingly cavalier attitude they feel Mayor Muriel Bowser has taken since the discovery went public and soon thereafter viral. Bowser has remained true to senior members from within her administration who benefited from being well-connected and were able to garner the assistance of Henderson in their efforts to secure a preferred school for their children. Meanwhile, it’s fairly obvious that what happened under Henderson’s watch has been going on in the District well before Bowser took the helm.

Bowser says she’s going to fix the system as well she should. But some District residents, parents in particular, want a formal apology. They don’t like the fact that they played by the rules — even if it meant losing in the end. So far, Bowser hasn’t done that. Neither is it clear whether the mayor actually knew about the decisions Henderson had made.

Either way, we know some shenanigans have been part of the lottery system process for quite some time — decisions that while they may not have resulted in any laws being broken, do reveal poor decision-making and perhaps, the abandoning of those ethics to which we expect all of our leaders to follow.

Still, we can’t help but wonder who would not have done the same thing for their children that a few Bowser team members, and others at the top of the pecking order have done, if the chance arose. To be clear, we’re not excusing the behavior of or justifying the decisions made by Henderson. We’re just not sure that what happened should dominate the city’s agenda for too long.

We just want the lottery system to be revised so that everyone gets the same chance, no matter who they are or who they know. Every child is precious and deserving of the best — each and every child — the social, political and economic status of their parents should be viewed as irrelevant.

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