- The Washington Times - Friday, April 26, 2002

When Mayor Anthony Williams first stepped forward and said replace the embattled elected school board with a mayorally appointed one and proposed turning several of the city's worst-performing schools over to private reformers, he found himself in good company and should have stayed there. But he drifted away from Terence Golden, who stands tall among business and civic leaders who long ago called for school reform, and from former D.C. Council member Bill Lightfoot, a strong advocate for reform during his years on the council and since. Now, the mayor finds himself wedged between a political rock and a very hard place called the status quo.
In the midst of his and School Board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz's re-election campaigns, the mayor is wringing his hands over a subpar school system, Mr. Golden having asked Mrs. Cafritz not to seek re-election, and the mayor trying to decide whether he should again endorse Mrs. Cafritz. What is the mayor waiting for? Does he really have a choice? Does he need each of the city's 68,000 school children to telephone him to understand what his options are?
Perhaps this newspaper, quoting The Washington Post, will help drum home the point to Hizzoner. Here is what Mrs. Cafritz said about Mr. Golden's attempts to knock her out of the box: "I think it's testosterone run amok."
Surely the mayor can't still be in denial after that rather frank comment unless his retort is that it's hormones run amok.
Indeed, Mr. Lightfoot is ready, willing and certainly capable of leading the District's sluggish school board and he appreciates the sense of urgency at hand. A member of the council's education panel until retiring in the early 1990s, he wrote the charter school legislation and supported granting the mayor and council more line-item authority over the budget for the D.C. Public Schools. He also criticized school authorities for delaying implementation of much-needed reforms that were suggested in the 1980s by the Committee on Public Education (COPE), an organization then headed by Mr. Golden that recommended curriculum changes, stepped-up parental involvement, better facilities and teacher raises, among other things all with the intent of producing smarter children. COPE also suggested ways to pay for the reforms, and every politician in the city read its report.
Unfortunately, although there has been and no doubt will be considerable discourse about public education, the bottom line is that only three things occurred: Authorities spent more and more money on schools; students fell further behind their peers nationally and regionally; and the hybrid school board was instituted.
It is high time that Hizzoner put his political capital where his mouth is and spoke out on school reform.

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