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Citizens Committee for DC School Governance Reform
January 2000




Dorothy Brizill
Bonnie Cain
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Citizens Committee for DC School Governance Reform
c/o The Greater Washington Urban League
3501 14th Street, NW Washington, DC 20010

Telephone: 202 265-8200 Fax: 202 265-9878

Our public schools are failing to educate our children. To restore public schools that our community can believe in, our school governance system must undergo fundamental change.

As the Control Board is preparing to end its three-year takeover of the D.C. Public Schools, citizens of the District must decide how and by whom our public schools are to be governed. The D.C. Council will decide perhaps as early as next week on a plan for restructuring the D.C. Board of Education .

We believe that the plan for an appointed school board proposed by Mayor Anthony Williams is the only proposal that can enable the D.C. Public Schools to pull out of years of decline. We ask you to join us in urging Council members to support the Mayor's proposal, for the reasons given in the attached Open Letter and editorial opinions.

If the Mayor is willing to advance such a bold proposal, it is only fair that the citizens have the opportunity to vote on it. The Council should allow the Mayor to take his case directly to the voters and we urge you to tell Council members to make this referendum happen.

Council of the District of Columbia
1 Judiciary Square, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Council Chair: Linda Cropp 724-8032
Ward 1 Jim Graham 724-8181
Ward 2 Jack Evans 724-8058
Ward 3 Kathy Patterson 724-8062
Ward 4 Charlene Drew Jarvis 724-8052
Ward 5 Vincent Orange 724-8028
Ward 6 Sharon Ambrose 724-8072
Ward 7 Kevin Chavous 724-8068 Chair, Education Committee
Ward 8 Sandy Allen 724-8045
At-Large Harold Brazil 724-8174
At-Large David Catania 724-7772
At-Large Phil Mendelson 724-8064
At-Large Carole Schwartz 724-8105


The current structure for governing the District of Columbia Public Schools has failed to meet the needs of this city's children. We call upon our city's elected leaders to support the school reform proposal put forward by Mayor Williams.

The need for change is clear. First and foremost, our schools are failing to effectively educate the vast majority of students, especially our most needy students, and this has been true for many years. Second, this failure has had a devastating impact on our community, increasing the demands on social services and straining the criminal justice system. Third, the local and national perception that our schools are failing has undermined our efforts to achieve full voting representation for our citizens. Finally, and most importantly, we are allowing the potential of too many of our young people to go to waste.

We believe that one of the most basic reasons for the failure of our schools is the fundamental lack of accountability and responsibility inherent in the governance structure. Currently, the Board of Education has policy- setting authority and responsibility for school expenditures while fiscal responsibility rests with the Mayor and City Council. The upshot is the absence of accountable, responsible governance. As one Council member put it: "When everyone is in charge, no one is in charge."

Under Mayor Williams' proposal, the Mayor would appoint the five members of the Board of Education from a list of 15 persons recommended by an independent Nominating Committee. The Mayor's choices would have to be confirmed by the Council. We believe that this new form of governance more closely aligns responsibility with authority so that, for the first time, there will be real accountability for the performance of our schools. The Mayor and Council provide funding for the schools; it is they who should be held accountable for the schools' success or lack of success through appointment of the Board of Education. We also agree with Mayor Williams that this change should be done on a trial basis. Thus, we favor a sunset provision that would give the citizens a chance in 2004 to vote on whether the appointed Board should be retained or replaced.

We support the Mayor's proposal and applaud his willingness to accept responsibility and to be held accountable for what is, arguably, the District's most important public service.

Roderic V.O. Boggs, Director Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights
Maudine Cooper, President, Greater Washington Urban League
George Ferris, former Co-chair, DC Committee on Public Education (COPE)
Sam Foster, Executive Director, Concerned Citizens on Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Duane Gautier, Executive Director, Action to Rehabilitate Community Housing
James O. Gibson, President, DC Agenda
Ronald King, Chairman, ANC 6C
Albert Hopkins, President/CEO, Anacostia Economic Development Corporation
Angela Jones, Director DC, Action for Children
Joyce Ladner, former interim President, Howard University
Mary Levy, Public Education Project, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights
Bill Lightfoot, former at-large Councilmember
Rev. Anthony J. Motley, Redemption Ministry
Glenda Partee, former co- chair Parents United
John Payton, former Corporation Counsel
John Ray, former at-large Councilmember
Rev. Shearin, Pastor, Israel Baptist Church
Lloyd Smith, former President, Marshall Heights CDC
Rev. Frank D. Tucker, Pastor, First Baptist Church and Chair, Church Association for Community Services
Bethann West, Executive Director, Advocates for Justice & Education
Roger Wilkins, Professor of History, George Mason University and former Trustee, UDC

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