- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2018

Smart prosecutors and politicians who smell something fishy often say they will “follow the money.”

That’s a wise rule, whether referring to an individual or group of individuals.

Members of Baltimore’s elite Gun Trace Task Force, for example, racked up praise until the feds discovered the officers actually had also stolen $100,000 from a safe, robbed a motorist of $25,000 and had garbage bags filled with stolen prescription drugs, among other illegal activities.

The art of a con, a successful con, takes on as many shades of deception as the marks and shills engaged in the hustle.

American education is a con game, too, only the hustle isn’t to lure marks with playing cards and nutshells.

No, in the Ed-Con Game, the shills are children, parents and voters — everyday, ordinary American citizens who expect politicians to say what they mean and mean what they say.

Consider, how the District plays its hand. Twenty years ago, the city’s public schools sucked academically, and its schoolhouses were aged, dilapidated structures. D.C. kids, regardless of the academic measuring sticks and funding enhancements, never reached the top rungs of any ladders. Fed up, stakeholders pushed through a school reform in 2007 that handed the bureaucratic control of D.C. Public School (DCPS) to the mayor and the control of DCPS purse strings to the D.C. Council.

Eleven years in, the con is revealed.

DCPS pulls in money from taxpayers and private donors, and cheats children out of an education. Whether this version of a three-card Monte is legit or not, won’t be revealed to the public until spring.

Council member David Grosso sought Mayor Muriel Bowser’s on-the-record testimony to the Education Committee; the mayor said no, and Mr. Grosso said OK.

Mr. Grosso, the committee’s chairman, has nothing to lose. An at-large lawmaker, he’s accountable to no one. An independent, he’s responsible to no one. A former aide to a Democratic member of Congress and to a Democratic council member, he’s free to freelance hold loyalty no thoughtful audience or ideological rendering but the one in his mind’s eye.

Fifteen years ago, of the District’s 364,186 registered voters, 54,172 — or 14.9 percent — were independent and not affiliated with any party, per the D.C. Board of Elections. As of February, the board reports that independents had mushroomed to 77,183 or 16.46 percent — overwhelming the city’s 28,959 registered Republicans.

On the other hand, the con being played in the District is no different than a street hustle or, dare I compare, the Bernie Madoff Wall Street scheme. Recall, the financier managed to snag $64.8 billion and amass 4,800 clients before the feds nabbed him in December 2008, and he pleaded guilty the following year. He was caught playing games with other people’s money.

It’s high time the council determined precisely how it budgets preK-12 education dollars and how the executive branch spends those dollars, and stop playing the con game long enough to determine why students don’t have the classroom tools they need.

The mayor is poised to give her State of the District address next week, and the last day of school is June 13, the week before the Democratic con, er, primary resets.

Like Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, public education is stacked with other people’s dollars and therefore easy to trace.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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