- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Mike DeWine, the chief Senate Republican who oversees D.C. spending, isn’t at all pleased that, after working with bipartisan leaders in City Hall and on Capitol Hill, school officials still have no concrete plans for spending a special $13 million appropriation for D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) that was approved in January. Now Mr. DeWine is drafting a letter with Democrats and other Republicans explaining why DCPS will be barred from spending the $13 million. The letter could come as early as this week, Mr. DeWine’s office told us yesterday, and it won’t be a moment too soon.

On Friday, Mayor Williams vetoed the D.C. Council’s omnibus school restructuring bill. He did so for the very same reasons that Hill lawmakers put those funds on hold: school leaders have no specific plans to boost academics; and they fail to grasp the urgency to reform. In fact, not only does the council’s bill embrace the status quo, but the plan submitted by Interim Superintendent Robert Rice would waste most of the $13 million on policies and practices that have failed to produce measurable academic gains. For example, Mr. Rice wants to spend $4.7 million on unspecified curriculum materials, $3.4 million to teach teachers how to teach reading and $2.5 million to keep track of textbooks. Mr. Rice couldn’t fool members of Congress or their staffs. They knew how-to reading courses that last only three hours are a sham and that D.C. students need textbooks more than the educrats need a textbook inventory system.

Thousands of parents each year pull their children out of the troubled system, while working-class families prefer to struggle to make ends meet in the suburbs rather than place their children’s educational future in the hands of DCPS.

Hill lawmakers want to withhold the $13 million for DCPS until a new superintendent and sufficient spending plan are in place. The mayor, meanwhile, wants the council to reconsider its school bill, which merely restores the school board to an all-elected body. “It is critically important that we as elected leaders exhibit the courage to truly reform our education system now,” the mayor said in a letter to Council Chairman Linda Cropp. “I hope we can reach resolution on this matter in the timeliest manner,” he concluded. If significant school reforms are to be implemented next school year by a new superintendent, time is indeed of the essence.

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