- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

I am deeply disappointed with Deborah Simmons’ column, “It’s not easy being Eleanor” (Op-Ed, Friday). It fallaciously attacks Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s congressional representative, shamefully using racially charged language.

Our Coalition for Accountable Public Schools held the news conference on May 1 at the Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School. We naturally sought the participation of Mrs. Norton because she opposes vouchers for the same reason that the coalition and a majority of D.C. residents and officials have opposed them: because they funnel desperately needed public money to unaccountable private schools.

There is no basis to Mrs. Simmons’ charge that Mrs. Norton “denied entry,” a la Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus, to voucher advocates. She was not in a position to do so, and we had no policy to keep anyone out of the news conference. Quite the contrary, as Mrs. Norton has stated that she went over to where these advocates were gathered and had a pleasant conversation with them. They did not tell her or those of us organizing the news conference that they had been denied entry or that they desired to enter. The four or five advocates present outside the academy stood comfortably holding their signs, even helpfully directing me and my sister to the appropriate entrance to the academy.

When Mrs. Norton was later informed that the pro-voucher group believed that it had been prevented from entering the building, she wrote that this was neither her intent nor the coalition’s and, with our permission, invited the group to the next event that was held by the coalition, a May 6 rally at the Wilson Building.

I am saddened that this baseless assault on Mrs. Norton might divert attention away from the real injustice that public dollars and hopes may be expended on private school vouchers, an experiment already proven ineffective at obtaining achievement gains for our children.

Mrs. Norton is a proud black woman who grew up during the civil rights movement, administered the nation’s equal opportunity laws and fights every day in Congress for the rights of D.C. residents and all Americans. She deserves better than Mrs. Simmons’ personal racial attack, and we deserve better than to have to read it.

MELODY WEBB

Director

StopDCVouchers.org

Washington


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