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Valerie Jablow Testimony – DCPS Performance Oversight Hearing – February 21, 2018

I am Valerie Jablow, a Ward 6 DCPS parent.

In our latest lottery scandal, at least two public school leaders bypassed lottery rules and thus expressed contempt for the schools they oversaw and the public they served.

Yet, instead of resigning when they thusly abused their power, they did so only months later, when it became politically unacceptable to remain.

Who voted for such anti-democratic public school governance?

During the first documented lottery abuse last year,[1] no city leader called for an audit of waitlists and the lottery—despite the importance of both to school choice. And no leader has called for an audit now, despite evidence that waitlist jumping and cheating are common.[2]

Who voted for such anti-democratic school governance?

As my representatives, you need to recognize this latest scandal as one of the many prices my children pay for our failed public school governance.

Education reform’s language of competition, choice, and demand is not that of residents like me, who pay for and send our kids to DC’s public schools.

Rather, it’s the language of political operatives including our mayor,[3] who appoints and supervises our school overseers, as well as of private interest groups who, unlike me, are paid to influence you and to testify at hearings.[4]

Together, they have prioritized the needs of private interests over the welfare of my children and the by right system of municipally run schools that ALL DC kids are entitled to. We are now at a place where our municipally run school system is slowly but surely being destroyed by closures, charter poaching, diminishing marketshare, and neglect.[5]

Tell me: who voted for such anti-democratic school governance?

As just one example, the deputy mayor for education’s office has missed many legally mandated deadlines for school facilities reports.

Instead of fulfilling those legal duties, the deputy mayor’s office is shopping around cross-sector task force recommendations that do not even recognize the need for, much less the value of, a by right system of municipally run schools in every neighborhood!
Who voted for that lawless school governance?

Some weeks ago, I found out that DCPS offered its closed Kenilworth Elementary to North Star charter school, without a word to the public.

To get details, I asked the council’s education committee; the deputy mayor’s office; DCPS. I even testified about it last week!

All I got was silence.

So our education overseers decided in secret to give away MY children’s public asset on YOUR watch–and everyone’s cool with it!

And, while saying she knew nothing about the Kenilworth offer (other than it happened), the acting deputy mayor for education told me that her office had asked DCPS “to meet with newly opening charter schools to discuss and understand their needs.”

So my children’s right to their municipally run schools is less than charter needs!

I call on you now to stop this shameful, anti-democratic school governance:

Undo your vote for mayoral control and bring back an elected school board: this time, with term limits, no private financing of campaigns, and oversight of both charter and DCPS schools. Instead of school overseers with contempt for my children and their RIGHTS, we need school overseers who embrace and deliver the democratic guarantee—not chance, not choice—of excellent DCPS schools in every neighborhood. Thank you.

(Please note that supporting details and evidence are in the footnotes.)

[1] That was in 2017, when an investigation found a number of instances when former DCPS chancellor Henderson offered slots outside the lottery process to politically connected parents. See here for more information: https://educationdc.net/2017/04/30/so-can-we-have-an-audit-of-the-lottery-now/

[2] One parent (whose child was on the Wilson waitlist when the chancellor’s child was offered a slot) told me that a DC high school with a waitlist pulled a student from the bottom of the 2017 waitlist because he was a good athlete, while a school without a waitlist could not pull a student in until after their post lottery application was completed. The parent also told me that a school enrolled a student at the end of the school year to circumvent the most recent lottery that year, so technically that student didn’t “jump” the line. Now imagine the lottery stories of the 20,000 or so families who participate in the lottery every year. Or the 90,000 families in our system of “choice.”

[3] Immediately after news that Chancellor Wilson resigned, I got an email from the mayor, via DCPS, touting education reform in the last decade in DCPS. That decade was when my school’s PTA spent thousands of dollars to buy food, print brochures, host childcare, all to sell my school at our open houses—all the while our city approved charter schools willy nilly without a commensurately growing student population, saying that the old schools were “failing.” As a result, my school, like most DCPS schools, had budget fights every single year for that decade because of charter poaching of students. That’s something to celebrate?

[4] This power mismatch was illustrated recently by the efforts of KIPP DC to secure revenue bond funding from DC. The mayor proposed millions in revenue bonds for KIPP DC to expand in wards 7 and 8, without one word to the public about it. When Ward 7 residents found out, they took time from their jobs and came, unpaid, to the Wilson building to demand their elected representatives not approve those bonds. At the exact same moment, KIPP DC sent its paid representatives to fight the community over how the community’s own schools and tax dollars would be used—because KIPP DC wanted the money, not because it cared about democracy. KIPP is not only among the wealthiest charter operators in DC, but also one of the most generous in donating to our politicians. See more information here: https://educationdc.net/2017/11/29/so-while-apparently-not-worrying-about-ballou-our-mayor-requested-230-million-in-dc-bonds-for-kipp-dc/

 

[5] DCPS is losing 1% of market share every year. By 2021, absent any real change, it will be the minority school system. Moreover, there are entire neighborhoods without a by right school because of closures—as well without a clear by right pathway. The utter neglect of DCPS’s Sousa Middle School that I documented in the fall and asked for help with was not addressed by anyone until I posted pictures on my blog (see here: https://educationdc.net/2017/10/13/no-response-sousa-middle-school/) And even now, the school has a mere skeleton of a PTO and LSAT, while no one has ever responded to me about publicly stated plans for the use of empty spaces in the building. And that’s merely scratching the surface of DCPS neglect: at last week’s performance oversight hearing for the charter board and DME, we heard about lack of door locks in a school such that an active shooter could not be stopped; vermin in our schools; and sewage spills during school lunches. ALL of that has been documented for years running for both the council and mayor by DCPS parents and staff who have to live with it. This is the deeply disrespectful way we treat our children and the municipally run by right schools they are entitled to, all the while our city has a surplus and spends money on entirely optional things (see here: https://educationdc.net/2015/11/20/stuff-we-spend-our-city-money-on/). Trust me: no one voted for that. There is no demand for that.

 

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