- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Here we go again.

The District’s mayor and lawmakers make up their minds to do a thing, throw a dart at a dollar sign and pretend to hold public discussions on the thing.

If you don’t look closely, the thing appears to be a proposal.

Think Internet gambling, which landed in the D.C. book of laws last December, when city hall knew taxpayers were preoccupied with the tidings of creature comforts and Christmas joy.

This year’s merry mischief comes in the form of the D.C. Community Schools Incentive Act, on which the D.C. Council was scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday evening. Except that the hearing was canceled.

The legislation appears worthwhile, calling for the mayor and his education minions to unite with the private sector on behalf of young people and their families inside public schools.

The proposal mandates that these “community schools” would provide services in an idyllic environment to help curb illiteracy, truancy, substance abuse, poor eating habits, bad sportsmanship, poor parenting and reverse such trends as high unemployment, high health-risk factors, high crime rates and lack of parental engagement.

Oh, and these schools, all five of them, would turn apathetic residents into self-driven go-getters.

For seed money, the council is considering $200,000, a heck of a down payment when you consider such a sum could at the very least cover part-time salaries to legal D.C. residents who, through no fault of their own, coincidentally find themselves unemployed.

A job would provide a quick lift for a dad who is willing but unable to care for his family at this time of the year.

The second obvious problem is that city officials are trying to turn our nine-month school system into a year-round school system - sans careful deliberations. If that’s what city hall wants, then the lawmakers should stiffen their backbone and propose a dramatic change. After all, the nine-month thing isn’t producing the needed outcomes anyway.

And then there’s this: I’m willing to wager that $200,000 is hardly a realistic down payment on the annual utility, personnel and wear-and-tear costs the community-school programs will incur.

As it reads now, the legislation calls for establishing five community schools within a year or so that will offer “primary medical and dental care” and treatment for mental-health issues for students and community residents. It also mandates that these schools deliver “school-age child care services including but not limited to before- and after-school services, and full-day programming that operates during school holidays, summers, vacations and weekends.” This baby boomer is visualizing ruckus rooms instead of romper rooms, a picture that council member Michael A. Brown crystallizes with his cost estimate that each school could easily need an additional $1 million to $2 million every year - just to fulfill the “community” aspect of the proposal.

Keep in mind, Mr. Brown is the same lawmaker who ushered the Internet gambling bill into reality last December, when voters and taxpayers were preparing for the yuletide season.

If education dollars are splintered into programs that have nothing to do with academics, what’s going to become of your school’s budget?

Bah humbugs can be sent Mr. Brown’s way at 202/724-8015 or to mbrown@dccouncil.us.

If you want to contact a higher authority, Chairman Kwame R. Brown can be reached at 202/724-8032 or kbrown@dccouncil.us, and you can express yourself to the mayor’s office by contacting 202/724-6300 or em@dc.gov. A reminder: Neither Kwame Brown nor Mayor Vincent C. Gray is up for re-election next year. Michael Brown, an independent, wants to be reseated.

The elections are in April.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com

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