Since the D.C. Public Schools were ripped from the control of residents who elected members to the D.C. School Board and then put into the hands of the mayor with oversight by the D.C. City Council, little has happened to improve the quality of education for thousands of school children in the District of Columbia. True, new school buildings dot the District landscape across every quadrant and ward, but the equalizer comes from what is taught in the classroom, how teachers are supported by school administrators and what policies are put in place by education leaders that benefit every student regardless of where they live or what school they attend. Further, the time has come to erase the decades-old dividing line that is steadily widening between schools in underserved communities in the eastern part of the city and those viewed as more “desirable” and “coveted” in the western part of the District.
The current rift that has Mayor Muriel Bowser oddly defending herself from allegations made by ousted Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson is further exacerbating the elitist perception that good schools don’t exist in all neighborhoods. Wilson, hired by Bowser a year ago, was recently asked to resign for violating the lottery process by seeking permission to transfer his daughter to another school and skipping over others waiting in line. The focus has since turned into an investigation led by At-Large Council member David Grosso, who says he wants to get to the bottom of what the mayor knew about the transfer. Did she or didn’t she lie to the public when she said she was unaware of Wilson’s daughter’s transfer?
The unfortunate victim in all of the finger pointing is a high school student whose desire to attend a school that fit her needs ultimately resulted in her father and others losing their jobs, also putting the city’s mayor firmly in the hot seat.
We are into a political season and everything is about politics. We believe the more we take education out of the hands of the educators, parents and students, the more it will be treated as a political football kicked around on an uneven playing field with no clear goals and no true winners.
The issue at hand should be less about who knew what and when and more about how students are succeeding across this city because good schools and good teachers exist all across the District.