Improving the Schools
Have Superintendent Michelle Rheeís and Superintendent Kaya
Hendersonís "reforms" improved or hurt the education of students in DCís
public schools? The Economic Policy Instituteís project, A Broader,
Bolder Approach to Education (http://boldapproach.org)
has published a report on school "reform" efforts in Chicago, New York
City, and Washington, DC, "Market-Oriented Education Reformsí Rhetoric
Trumps Reality," by Elaine Weiss and Don Long,
A quick summary of the studyís DC results, from an article by Weiss
reprinted in Valerie Straussí "The Answer Sheet" column,
http://tinyurl.com/c3p7ua8: "In Washington,
DC, test scores among most student groups had been rising prior to Rhee
and Fentyís arrival, some of them rapidly. After 2007, however, test
scores largely stagnated or declined, and those that had not been rising
fell still more. Moreover, DC schools stand out among the three
districts studied for the most disproportionate accrual of gains to
high-income, non-minority students." See also Rachel Bayeís article in
The Washington Examiner, "Report Claims Rheeís Reforms Harmed DC
Fixing Elections in DC
As the District prepares to hold local elections in 2014, attention
will again focus on improving the administration of DCís election laws.
District residents are demanding that effective laws and procedures are
put in place to address the campaign finance issues that have been
ongoing in the District for the past ten years, issues that have been
highlighted by the recent ongoing investigation of Mayor Grayís 2010
campaign (e.g., the existence of an off-the-books shadow
campaign, unreported receipts and expenditures, cash donations, and the
use of money orders, etc.). Because there are so many election
related issues that DC residents and lawmakers will need to address in
2013, it is counterproductive and, indeed, wasteful to manufacture an
issue where one doesnít exist.
In a May 3 Local Opinions column in the Washington Post, "Why
Canít You Register Online to Vote in DC?,"
http://tinyurl.com/d7rjatm, Mindy Moretti
suggested that elections could be improved in the District by cleaning
the voter registration rolls by, for example, removing duplicate
registrations, typos, old addresses, and maiden names. She then says
that "one way to get cleaner rolls would be to allow online voter
registrations," but notes that "there is no reason that the DC Board of
Elections should not be offering online registration, other than a lack
of vision and the funding necessary to bring that vision to fruition."
On April 30, Councilmember Tommy Wells introduced Bill 20-2013, the
Voter Registration and Modernization Amendment Act of 2013, to "amend
the District of Columbia Election Code of 1955 to authorize the Board of
Elections to provide and operate an online voter registration system and
allow an individual to apply to become a registered voter and update
voter registration information through an online voter registration
In recent years, the Districtís Board of Elections has had a program
that allows individuals to download and print out a voter registration
as well as to review and correct their voter registration status (https://www.dcboee.org/voter_info/reg_status/).
The only limitation on online registration is the District law that
requires the Board to obtain an original signature from a first-time
registrant, in order to protect against voter fraud. As a result the
registration form, once completed and signed, must be mailed or taken to
the BOE to be processed and scanned into the signature database. It
should also be noted that an individual can register and update voter
information by completing BOE forms that are readily available at most
District agencies, checking a box on a form at the DC Department of
Motor Vehicles, or, on election day, via same-day voter registration.
Mayor Grayís Drivers License for Undocumented
Mary C. Young,
I have a suggestion for the mayor. Instead of giving illegal
immigrants drivers licenses, he should give them bicycles. This way we
can achieve two things at once: getting more cars off the streets and
saving illegal immigrants the expense of car insurance.
Itís official. On April 30 I declared my candidacy for the Washington
Teachersí Union (WTU) General Vice President again. This time, I am
running on the Elizabeth Davis (known as Liz) slate. Itís an opportunity
for a new start, for new beginnings ó a time to take stock of where
weíve been, where we stand and how much needs to be done for DC teachers
and school personnel.
Nothing is more important to me than advocating for teachers/school
personnel, students, and our schools. I have always been in the
forefront of education advocacy and public education reform. My running
mate, Liz Davis, has always stood for great student-centered teaching,
advocating for better teaching and learning conditions, saving our
public schools, and representing membersí rights. We both stand firmly
against the privatization of public education and support a
participatory union membership that is inclusive, not a dictatorship.
Our styles are similar in that we both are great leaders, good
listeners, and try to build consensus. We offer transparency and ethical
leadership, as I have so often demonstrated in my union leadership and
my writings on my education blog; The Washington Teacher, which became
an online voice for DC teachers and school personnel during the Michelle
It pains me to say that life as we all know and love in our public
schools ó is in danger ó and has been for some time. In DC and
throughout the US, teachers have become an endangered species. This
revolving door of our teacher and principal workforce under both the
Rhee and Henderson administration has harmed students, compromised their
ability to achieve, sent our public schools into further decline and led
to a diminishing enrollment. Itís an exciting and important journey,
offering teachers a change in union leadership and doing what needs to
be done for the future, our future. We hope to add to our family of
followers and welcome every oneís ideas. We support our younger
colleagues and older veterans because we believe that together, we are
better. Pitting the old versus the young isnít in any of our best
interests, particularly our students. Let me close by saying that when
only a few do better ó at the expense of everybody else ó well, all of
us pay the price. We want so much more and plan to tell you about our
plans in the very near future.
In "War on Facts" [themail, May 1] Paul Basken asks for more balance
in the discussion about bicycles versus. cars. He says, "And how does
evening the balance between bike options and car options mean
policymakers are failing to plan for the needs of people of all ages and
conditions? Isnít that what balancing the options in fact means?"
Balance, to me, means a system where people who want to use bicycles,
and people who want (or need) to use their own cars, can both be served.
That is why on previous comments in themail and elsewhere Iíve stated
that I think DC should serve bicyclists, even thought bike lanes are an
inconvenience to me personally. Live and let live.
My problem with "balance" is that I donít think it is yet there for
those who need to use and park their car on the street. I am one such
person. Like many people in Portland, Oregon, who moved into the new
multiunit buildings with zero parking spaces, I have a car and need to
park on the street. Most of the time, if I need to park after 7:00 p.m.,
I have to park two or three blocks from my house. I can live with that,
although it didnít use to be that way, before new folks moved in from
the suburbs (with cars) replacing former, older residents who didnít
have cars. Again, live and let live.
The problem is that the Office of Planning, and now in all likelihood
the Zoning office, are proposing the now failed Portland, Oregon,
scheme: new multiunit residential buildings within a half mile of Metro
will not have to have any parking. That proposal will make it extremely
hard to park anywhere near my home, I might have to park illegally just
to be able to park, with the ticket that comes with illegal parking.
This proposal therefore does not represent balance. Existing car owners
ó even those who drive only 4500 miles per year, like me ó are going to
face significant hardship. We are not being served, while walkers and
bicyclists are. I donít object to increased density (in fact, I think it
is the right thing to do), and I donít object to bicycle lanes. But I do
object to new policies that will make it very hard for me to park
anywhere near my home, in particular when we see that Portland has gone
back on the policy that DC is about to propose. See the Portland
So I agree with Paul that we should have balance. But I donít think we
have it, yet. And I hope Paul will agree that Iím not hyperventilating.
What the Hell Does This Have to Do with Fox?
[Re: Paul Basken, "War on Facts," themail, May 1] I gather the writer
is a "liberal" and just wishes to render a drive-by slap at Fox, but I
The Cost of the Streetcar System
The three streetcars were ordered when Dan Tangherlini was head of
DDOT. They have been in storage for seven years, so the cost of putting
them in good working order has to be substantial, and should be added
into the cost of the system. What is the life expectancy of a high-tech
vehicle? Do any of the council members drive seven-year-old cars?
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