- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2019


You don’t have to be a top chef to know that, like oil and water, President Trump and left-of-center Democrats don’t go well together — and that sensitive palates find the taste of anchovies yucky.

Some things just don’t mix, no matter how much you shake the bottle, stir the pot or hold your nose.

School choice won’t flip that script, but do not be fooled.

Traditionalists — that is, the people who uphold the status quo — find school choice threatening.

Charter schools are a particular threat to traditionalists, because they attract a broad demographic of students and are boosting universal pre-kindergarten enrollment nationwide because instruction is free.

So traditionalists want to tighten the bureaucratic noose on the most successful competitor to public schools — the charters.

D.C. lawmakers are at the front of the line, proposing to create several reams of red tape to strangle the autonomy of public charter schools.

The misnamed D.C. Public School Transparency Amendment Act of 2019 would come in direct conflict with the 1995 D.C. School Reform Act, the federal law that established public charters in the District, and subsequent D.C. laws that buttressed Congress’s intention in its school reform legislation.

In the council members’ opinion, greater accountability for public charter schools would be achieved by compelling autonomous charters to fulfill public-record requests and comply with open meeting laws, which under current city law apply to the Public Charter School Board but not the charter schools themselves.

The new legislation proposes that charter schools — but not traditional public schools — :

Disclose nonpublic fund raising.

Publish all employees’ names and salaries.

Accept two teacher representatives on their boards.

Accept one student for high schools or adult education centers on their boards.

List all school contracts regardless of dollar.

The names of nonpublic donors to charter schools have nothing to do with pre-kindergarten students learning the alphabet, numbers, shapes and colors, or whether they are potty trained.

Publishing the names and salaries of employees won’t guarantee that employees will not cheat or commit fraud. Have such measures prevented fraud in D.C. Public Schools? Or the D.C. Council? Or Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration?

As for contracts, if school contracting for education is an issue, here again the council and mayor should look at themselves — where construction and renovation cost overruns are a constant plague, as well as the failure to fight rodent and other infestations inside schoolhouses.

The architect of the D.C. Public School Transparency Amendment Act is Democratic Council member Charles Allen of Ward 6, which includes Capitol Hill. Quite frankly, on its face the proposal is one of the most hypocritical pieces of education-related legislation to come down the pike since Congress and the Clinton White House ordered the District to get aboard the school-choice bandwagon.

To paraphrase a Dem who was opposed congressional intervention, we don’t need the D.C. Council to run our charter schools.

In fact, the charter school board will close schools and tighten the reins when they run afoul legally or financially. However, the same cannot be said of the mayor or the council.

For sure, running the “school system” into the ground led to President Clinton and Congress intervening in the first place. And some 35 years later, the system remains hit by scandal after scandal.

Instead of broadening its oversight, the council should focus on what’s already on its plate — and that includes scrubbing the Bowser budget for line-item school spending.

Such a move would go a long way to bolster transparency in city hall, including the political shenanigans regarding school choice.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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