- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2000

Where stands the school governance issue? In a state of utter political chaos.
In June, D.C. voters approved the "School Governance Charter Amendment Act of 2000." The referendum reduces the number of the members of the D.C. Board of Education from 11 to nine, reduces the number of school districts from eight to four, calls for the board president to be elected citywide, and allows the mayor to appoint and the D.C. Council to confirm four board members.
The referendum also calls for the school board to hire, evaluate and fire the superintendent, establish personnel policies for hiring principals and approve the school system's annual budget. Further, the amendment allows the D.C. Council to create a state education agency and "directs that the provision for the make-up of the new board and the school election districts will end in four years. Thereafter, the selection and size of the board shall be made according to local law."
The vote was 51 percent for those changes and 49 percent against. Twelve percent of voters cast ballots, and proponents lost every precinct in Wards 5, 7 and 8 (most of Northeast, Southeast and Southwest Washington). So, as you can see, the "victory" was hardly decisive. Essentially, voters east of Rock Creek Park and east of Georgia Avenue voted against the referendum, while voters west of those boundaries (wink, wink white voters) voted for the referendum.
Now hear this. By redefining the school districts, some folks fear their wards won't be represented at all. For example, Wards 7 and 8 are henceforth School District 4. Now, if the winner in the November general election is from the former Ward 8 does that mean the former Ward 7 has no representation on the school board?
Of course not. But don't tell that to folks who are lobbying for legislation that would force the mayor's hand. In their minds, if a candidate from the former Ward 8 wins, then the mayor should appoint a member from Ward 7 and so on until the board has a member from each of the eight wards.
But that isn't the end of dubious campaigns. Some people are insisting the mayoral appointees have children in public schools or be the parents of public school parents. Others want residency and expertise requirements; they want to raise the bar on appointed members but not the elected members or even themselves. Such legislative rumblings expose the worst kind of D.C. politics.
It has been several years since the voters of the city have had the opportunity to grill school board candidates on the issues that truly matter. That was supposed to be the case in 2000. The way things are going now, voters may have to settle for less.

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