- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009

‘How embarrassing’ for D.C. schools

The D.C. Republican Committee has taken a swipe at a current and a former school board member for encouraging Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, against reauthorizing a voucher program for low-income youths. The chairman of D.C. Republicans criticized the two officials - school board President Lisa Raymond and D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, a former school board member - for telling Mr. Durbin in a letter that the voucher program should be discontinued and that some voucher students attended “seriously deficient” private schools.

In a letter and press release Dec. 1, Robert. J. Kabel told Ms. Raymond she should encourage support for vouchers and that she should first get her own house in order.

“The D.C. Republican Committee suggests that if you desire to set an example for academic excellence for our District’s students, the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) should begin by having a Web site free of spelling errors. Currently, the SBOE’s Web site has spelling errors, most noticeable under the section “Board Responsibilities,” the Web site reads ‘DC SBOE Responsibilites.’ ”

“How embarrassing is it to have an elected body, whose sole focus is to promote education, and yet they can’t even operate a simple Web site without spelling errors,” Mr. Kabel said.

(Editor’s note: A check on Thursday revealed that the error had been corrected.)

Vouchers in Maryland?

Will Maryland be the next school-voucher battleground?

Maryland’s General Assembly doesn’t convene until Jan. 13, but school-choice opponents are already gearing up for a fight against vouchers.

Some of the usual voices are in the chorus of opposition, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Maryland PTA. The PTA, which is supposed to support every “P” as in parent in Maryland, has long opposed vouchers. In fact, its position is clearly stated in the organization’s legislative platform, which says it supports state and federal programs and funding initiatives that “oppose vouchers.”

As for the ACLU, it’s one of those groups that can be counted on to egg on other opponents of publicly funded vouchers to “take action and ask lawmakers to oppose private school vouchers” - which is precisely what the ACLU does on its Web site.

The legislation that opponents are most concerned about in Maryland is called Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers, and, like its Pennsylvania counterpart, is called BOAST for short. What BOAST is is a program that would give tax credits to businesses and organizations that privately finance vouchers.

State lawmakers have considered voucher initiatives several times, but they have never passed. Proponents are hoping the fifth time’s the charm.

More money

The race for Race to the Top federal education dollars will be the main topic of a Dec. 15 community forum at Friendship Public Charter School’s Chamberlain campus. D.C. school officials say they are particularly interested in comments on four specific areas of the competitive funding program: standards and assessment, use of data and technology, turning around struggling schools, and quality teachers and principals.

The District could benefit from better data. The District is one of two states - Iowa is the other - that uses only five of 10 key elements to track students from kindergarten through higher education, according to a new study by the Data Quality Campaign. Properly used longitudinal data helps expose the good, the bad and the ugly about teaching and learning, experts said.

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