- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The D.C. Public Schools scandals are casting an unwelcome shadow on Mayor Muriel Bowser, who campaigned to be the “education mayor” in 2014 and is seeking re-election this year.

D.C. Council member David Grosso, chairman of the Education Committee, has called for an emergency hearing to question Miss Bowser under oath about the latest turn in the scandals — that the former schools chancellor last year told her about his daughter’s transfer to a highly competitive school without entering the mandatory school lottery.

According to The Washington Post, former Chancellor Antwan Wilson said he told the mayor about his daughter’s transfer in September. He and former Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles resigned last month over the transfer, which violated a policy Mr. Wilson had written himself.

Miss Bowser, who hired Mr. Wilson in February 2017, has said she didn’t learn of the situation until last month.

A spokesman for Mr. Grosso said the lawmaker is deciding on a date for the emergency hearing and will allow the public to submit written testimonies.

When asked Tuesday by The Washington Times if she plans to testify during the Education Committee hearing, Miss Bowser turned and walked away without providing a response.

Mr. Wilson’s claim that he notified the mayor of his daughter’s improper school transfer adds to a growing list of disappointments in the D.C. school system:

NPR and WAMU reported last year that about one-third of Ballou High School’s seniors had not met attendance and grade requirements for graduation. A later investigation found the problem was widespread throughout the school system.

Interim schools Chancellor Amanda Alexander, who was appointed last month to replace Mr. Wilson, reported last week that only 42 percent of D.C. high school seniors are “on track” with regard to credits needed to graduate. Of the remaining 58 percent, 19 percent of them could receive a diploma if they make up credits for classes they have missed.

The Post reported last week that an investigation at the highly competitive Duke Ellington School of the Arts revealed that about 100 students whose families had claimed D.C. residency actually live outside the city, flouting the $12,000-a-year out-of-state tuition fee. An Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) official suggested slowing the probe so as not to harm the mayor’s reelection bid. An OSSE spokesman has denied the allegation.

Despite the mounting education scandals in her administration, Miss Bowser, a Democrat, is running relatively unopposed in her reelection effort.

“A lot people come to me, ask me to run for mayor. That’s nothing I want to do right now. I want to focus on building my ward,” Councilmember Trayon White, Ward 8 Democrat, told The Times on Tuesday.

But in a note to The Times later in the day, Mr. White said “there is a social justice campaign needed in DC against this pay to play environment. If anyone could lead that for everyday people it would be me.”

A first-term lawmaker, Mr. White unseated council member LaRuby May in 2016. Although he has yet to introduce major legislation on his own, Mr. White is known for co-introducing legislation to reduce taxes on Anacostia businesses that is awaiting congressional approval.

Meanwhile, parents are expressing outrage and frustration over the city’s schools scandals.

“I think what’s really frustrated is that you have mayoral control so families have no way to provide input,” said Ruth Wattenberg, a school board member from Ward 3. “At least you want to have input every four years in the campaign.”

Ms. Wattenberg told The Times that the successive scandals have parents “really, really angry” and that “if there’s an opponent, there’d be a huge interest.”

The District’s Democratic primaries are set for June 26, and candidates have until March 26 to register. Third-party candidates have until Aug. 8 to register for the Nov. 6 general election.

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