- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2012

A group of the District’s finest high school seniors testified before a D.C. Council committee on Thursday in favor of a bill that requires city high schoolers to take a college entrance exam like the SAT and apply to at least one college.

One by one, the students, who came from a few different schools but appeared to be wearing the same navy blazers, talked about their promising academic careers and the excitement of being accepted to college after sending out dozens of applications. They each supported the legislation, noting the mandatory facets should not be seen as a “punishment,” but rather a pain-free path to a better future.

Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown says the bill is necessary to ensure the city’s youth are aware of the opportunities that await them in higher education. He said officials and parents are kidding themselves if they think D.C. teenagers do not need post-secondary studies to compete in today’s workplace.

The high-achieving youths received well-deserved praise from the council members on the dais.

“You are perfect examples of why the bill is so important,” Mr. Brown said.

Then council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, started off his remarks with this tidbit: “Let me welcome all these young people, who are interns in the council.”

Hmmm.

No more ‘DCFD

Some interesting photos were sent our way last week.

The series of images appeared to show a worker painting the bay doors at the D.C. fire department’s Engine Co. 7 in Southwest — a task we were able to confirm was performed Thursday.

What’s interesting about that?

Well, the new red paint job covers the letters “DCFD” that were boldly emblazoned on the front of the house.
The acronym, which stands for D.C. Fire Department, has been the subject of some controversy lately.

Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has attempted to rebrand the department with the letters D.C. FEMS, which stands for Fire and Emergency Medical Services. Though the FEMS acronym represents the official name of the department and has been in use for years, Chief Ellerbe has frowned on any use of DCFD. Firefighters say the move disrespects their traditions (and requires them to pay out of pocket for gear with the new logo.)

It’s possible that the bay doors just really needed a fresh coat of paint. But did we mention that Engine 7 happens to be the company to which fire union President Ed Smith is assigned?

Look out below

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnel’s education agenda took a hit last week when two Republican senators helped derail his proposal that would make it easier to fire teachers in the state.

But it was Senate Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw, Fairfax Democrat, who was threatening to throw himself off the state Capitol building over another one of the governor’s major education proposals.

The GOP eked out a big win Friday when Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling broke a 20-20 tie on a measure that would grant tax credits to corporations that provide scholarships for low-income children to attend private schools.

Republicans argue that it helps the state move out of a “one-size-fits-all” educational system in which children without sufficient means have to attend schools that may not be tailored to their needs, and that the measure could save taxpayer dollars in the long-term.

Democrats, meanwhile, decried the notion of using general fund money to pay kids to go to private school when it could be going to improve the state’s public education system.

The bill contains a “sunset clause” of 2017. So the state, in theory, could examine whether the measure has worked before deciding whether to continue it past that date.

The House version of the bill has no sunset clause. And Mr. Saslaw, in his typically blunt fashion, expressed his skepticism that anything was going to be reversed or ended. “If this expires in 2017, I’ll parachute off the roof of this building,” he said.

Late-night fodder

As the Virginia legislature debated a measure that would require drug testing for some welfare recipients in the state, Democrats cautioned they didn’t want to end up as the butt of late-night television jokes.

Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” had skewered Florida’s version of the measure, which a federal judge blocked last fall.

Well, it’s already too late, though that’s not the bill that’s become the target. On Saturday Night Live, Amy Poehler brought up a bill that has passed both the House of Delegates and the state Senate that would require women to undergo ultrasound imaging before having an abortion.

The bill is part of the state’s informed consent law to determine the gestational age of the baby. Because many women have abortions very early on in their pregnancies, though, it’s quite possible that a rather invasive transvaginal ultrasound procedure would have to be used.

“Now don’t get me wrong, I love transvaginal — it’s my favorite airline,” Ms. Poehler said. “I got so many miles on transvaginal that I always get upgraded to lady business.”

Seth Meyers, who headlined last year’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, then went after Delegate Robert G. Marshall’s “personhood” bill that defines life as beginning at conception.”

What’s next? Life begins at ‘last call?’” he asked. “Life begins when you click ‘send’ on your match.com profile? I mean, really.”

Well, at least the House version of the drug-testing bill has been carried over to next year, though a Senate version remains alive.

— Tom Howell Jr. and David Sherfinski contributed to this report