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Home » Chalk Talk – Biting the Apple on D.C. Choice

Biting the Apple on D.C. Choice

April, 2009

The opportunity for new opportunities in Washington seems to be waning. In the middle of killing the DC scholarship program, Washington’s new power brokers seem to have already eaten the apple.

To wit…

The DC Public School System – which its own Chancellor says is so broken that only a complete, albeit unlikely, overhaul of the teachers union contract will suffice to fix it – is now being touted as a viable choice for the children whose Opportunity Scholarships were recently halted thanks to Congressional and Administration opposition to school choice.

James Shelton, former Gates Foundation official, for-profit education company executive and now Assistant Deputy Secretary at the US Department of Education, tells DC scholarship parents that “DCPS schools now feature a range of exciting programs…. Parents also have a variety of options in the public charter school sector…”

Oh, wait. That would be the charter school sector that doesn’t get full facilities funding like other public schools. And the fraction which they do receive to help build, and cover mortgages and bonding is now on the Mayor’s chopping block. (Hello? You don’t chop funding for schools that work.) Coincidentally, Deputy Mayor Victor Reinoso, an acclaimed reformer, co-signed Shelton’s official Administration letter. Perhaps his praise of charter school choices will prove helpful to the charter leaders trying to get their facilities funds back so they can cover their obligations. Or not.

Shelton and Reinoso are actually really good people, but they’ve found themselves in Administrations that apparently don’t have the backbone to fight the partisan politics to keep a non-partisan program for children alive.

Instead, they suggest parents review the latest performance data on all schools, and direct the recipients to “user-friendly” data on their school. Oh, that’s really great. I’m glad DC has great information about schools. But these families already know that the local district schools to which they are zoned are failing – that’s what qualified them to get into the Opportunity Scholarship Program in the first place. Instead of ‘user-friendly’ data, they need ‘user-satisfactory’ school options.

I’ve truly never seen such collusion among so many powerful people to keep children out of schools working for them. Oh, but I’m wrong. I have seen it. It’s called the Blob, the Education Cartel, the Establishment, and all these folks running around DC right now who swore, not so long ago, they were not the status quo.

It usually takes a few months to become part of the problem, to eat the proverbial apple. The speed by which the current political leadership in Washington has done so is path-breaking. Knowledge is power. Now it’s time to use it.