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June 2, 2013

Competing with the Suburbs

Dear Competitors:

Robert Bettmann and Erich Martel, below, call attention to articles that they have published on other sites. Please post messages here yourselves when you have written (or read) something about DC that you think will benefit themailís members. Here are two other articles that I would like to recommend. "Urban School Reform Is Really About Land Development (Not Kids)," by Leslie Fenwick, dean of the Howard University School of Education, published by Valerie Strauss in her "The Answer Sheet" column,; and "The Triumph of Suburbia," by Joel Kotkin in New Geography,

Kotkinís article makes an important points in support of one of my recurring arguments in themail. Those of us who love cities and living in cities cannot afford to look down on and dismiss the attraction of suburbs. If you donít like something yourself, thatís fine. But if you canít sympathize with the attraction that other people have for it, then you canít understand it. Some people like living in a tiny apartment within easy walking distance of many bars and a subway stop. But for many people ó most people ó that is not their highest aspiration. Cities cannot compete with suburbs if they ignore the charms of suburbia, and if their urban planners, in their personal scorn for spacious detached houses with well-trimmed lawns, feel they donít have to compete.

Gary Imhoff


Learners Permit Tests
Deborah Bradford,

Is anyone out their having any problems with the Department of Motor Vehicles? As far as taking the Learners permit, they do not give the answers anymore in the back of the book. Even though I study hard, I canít seem to pass this test. The council, if they really want to make some money, need to start letting us take the test as many times as we want and charge us for it, instead of just letting us take it six times out of a year!


Earmarks Again
Robert Bettmann,

I published a brief op-ed in the Huffington Post related to legislative earmarking, which seems to be making a comeback in the council, "Donít Let Earmarks Return to DC,"


Argument for More Charter Funds Is Flawed
Erich Martel, ehmartel at starpower dot net

I wrote an article that was published in the May 29 Current newspapers [, page 9] in response to a commentary by Robert Cane, executive director of FOCUS (Friends of Choice in Urban Schools) that appeared in The Current and the Washington Examiner on May 15.

My article argued that charter schools are boosting their perceived success rates by shedding and transferring their less successful and most disruptive students. "The council and the public deserve to know the test scores and graduation status of these students, as well as the reason for their removal from charter high schools. How can the mayor and council tolerate charter schools receiving public funds and then selectively removing large numbers? If the average transfer rates of all DC public schools (14 percent) and all charter high schools (41 percent) were switched, the impact of the charter transfer privilege on school performance rates would be dramatically revealed: The charter graduation rate would drop from 77 to 52 percent, while the DC Public Schools average would rise from 56 to 81 percent."


Volunteer for the DC Statehood Survey Campaign
Bill Mosley,

Would you like to be part of the movement to win Statehood for the District of Columbia? Become a volunteer in the Statehood Survey Campaign being organized by the Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition, better known as "FREE DC." Youíll ask visitors to the National Mall this summer about their views on Statehood and help dispel myths standing in the way of full citizenship for DC residents. Join dozens of volunteers working to make DC the 51st state. The campaign starts in June so sign up now. Volunteer by E-mail at or call 232-2500 to sign up. Stand Up! Free DC! Statehood Now!


Report Report
Sarah Livingston,

I much appreciate the link on the May 5 issue of themail to the April 22 report "Market-oriented education reformsí rhetoric trumps reality." Having been inundated with corporate "reform" speak for the past six years, it was a challenge to read another sixty five or so more pages of it, but I wanted to know if the authors lived up to the claims in the reportís title, and I think they do.

For all who are troubled by the scourge of corporate "reformers" that has descended on Americaís public education system since the No Child Left Behind Act eleven years ago, it is an invaluable thing to have a document that gathers a rather random "set" of "reforms" and the massive amount of information about their effects in the real world of three major cities into one place. By doing that, the authors have helped to make sense of whatís been going on while at the same time showing how little, if any, sense the "reforms" actually make.

More importantly, much needed attention is given to the effects of these "reforms" on our democracy, to the grabbing and controlling nature of the "reformerís" campaign to put our elected representatives to work exclusively for them. What is clear to me from this report, and all my other experience, is that these "reforms" are weeds that have grown up out of the root of NCLB and its local companion in DC, the Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007. To get rid of the weeds, we will have to pull up them up by their roots.



Scott Seligman at Tenley-Friendship Library, June 5
Mary Alice Levine,

Please join the Friends of the Tenley-Friendship Library on Wednesday night, June 5, at 7:00 p.m., when we welcome author Scott Seligman on the second floor of the Library. Scott will be talking about his book, The First Chinese American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo. This biography is an account of the life and times of one of the most famous Chinese-Americans, and one of the earliest campaigners for racial equality. Wong Chin Foo (1847-1898) founded Americaís first association of Chinese voters and testified before Congress in favor of repealing laws that denied Chinese-Americans citizenship. The book will be on sale after the talk. The Tenley-Friendship Library is on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street, NW. Take the Red Line to Tenleytown.


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