- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There is a funky smell coming from D.C. Public Schools.

During the 2012-13 school year, a D.C. varsity football coach was fired amid allegations that a player lived in Maryland.

During the 2017-18 school year, D.C. officials learned that school employees cheated by granting diplomas to students who did not deserve them.

Last week, D.C. officials learned that two high-level education employees cheated students, parents and other stakeholders by granting an extra-special exemption for one of the employees’ children to attend a non-neighborhood school.

Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson have yet to admit it in public, but they have a cheating problem — a really big cheating problem — and it’s best they admit their screw-ups and put measures in place to clean house before they, too, worsen.

As of this writing, the mayor and council members want the public to believe the cheating scandals are contained now that the grantor of the extra-special exemption, Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles, has resigned and the recipient of said exemption, Chancellor Antwan Wilson, has apologized. On the contrary, the commonalities of the scandals underscore the exact opposite.

For one, Mr. Wilson wrote the rules regarding school and city workers seeking special permission for their children, and for another Ms. Niles was keenly aware that Mr. Wilson’s predecessor caught heat for doing exactly what she had done.

What’s more, both high-level authorities knew that hundreds of parents each year go through the arduous task of participating in the District’s annual school “lottery” to get their children in their school of choice. Like an immigrant Dreamer, however, Mr. Wilson ask to jump the line, and his request was granted.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the council’s Education Committee, David Grosso, sees, hears and speaks no evil amid all the cheating. He’s the type of progressive legislator who would rather cite a lack of school funding as the great equalizer than point his finger at city workers, school employees and bad policies — and, most important of all, poor oversight.

Blame the “system” — but never get caught.

Which brings us to Mr. Mendelson, who handed oversight of the system to Mr. Grosso in the first place. During their watch, the school system’s dirty laundry gets smellier as time passes. What’s next? A blown system-wide school budget, which is what Mr. Wilson left behind as schools chief in Oakland, California.

And herein lies the mayor’s role. Before she became mayor, Miss Bowser helped guide the council through ethics reform and was a lawmaker as the council resurrected the standalone Education Committee in 2007. She knew then, as now, that education reform was needed to restore confidence in DCPS leadership, and its teaching and learning apparatus.

Unfortunately, the calls for education reform morphed into more scandals at the hands of the leadership and its enablers. After all, the dirtiest secret of all was that every single traditional high school in the city handed diplomas to teens who did not earn them, not merely Ballou, as originally suspected.

If a coach was fired and held accountable for a single infraction, it’s inconceivable that no butts have been kicked out of City Hall and DCPS headquarters.

Several individual lawmakers are pushing for Mr. Wilson’s resignation, although many others must be held accountable, too.

The cheating scandals are a disservice to children, and Miss Bowser and Mr. Grosso, who have no children in DCPS, can’t seem to grasp what’s at stake — and that’s the miseducation of our youths.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]


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