- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday filed a Superior Court challenge to a ruling by the city’s elections board that said his school takeover plan was a fit subject for a citizen referendum.

The court filing says the referendum is improper because it exceeds its authority in trying to overturn the act of Congress that would repeal the parts of the Home Rule Charter changed to allow the mayor authority over the schools.

The challenge also says the referendum circumvents the mayor and city council’s authority over the school budget, violating statutes that say a referendum may not appropriate funds.

“The plan to reform the school system has been approved by the residents of the District of Columbia through the duly elected city council of our representative government,” Mr. Fenty said.

Matthew Watson, attorney for local activist Mary Spencer who filed for the referendum, said he thinks the challenge will be decided in Miss Spencer’s favor.

“We find the contention very imaginative but wrong,” Mr. Watson said. “We prevailed at the board of elections, and we think the court will see it the same way.”

Mr. Watson said he expects the court to rule by Wednesday, the first day that petitions can be distributed to signature gatherers.

Miss Spencer and her supporters must gather 20,000 signatures before a congressional review period expires June 11 to get the measure on the ballot.

If the court overrules the elections board, Mr. Fenty would gain control of the 55,000-student school system.

But if the referendum is allowed to proceed, it would go before voters in an August special election in which voter action would decide the fate of the schools takeover plan.

Meanwhile, President Bush yesterday signed legislation allowing Mr. Fenty to take control of the city schools.

The mayor has scheduled a press conference for Monday with school board President Robert C. Bobb and schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey in which he plans to outline the “next steps for the city’s school system.”

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