D. C. Schools at Twilight

, Deborah Lambert, Leave a comment

“The fight for the Democratic mayoral nominee in Washington D.C. encapsulates the national struggle for education reform,” wrote Christopher Prandoni of Americans for Tax Reform, on the eve of the primary that wiped D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty off the map.

He noted that that Mayor Fenty and School Chancellor Michelle Rhee, were “true reformers who took on the teachers unions in hopes of improving DC’s schools.”

But the youngest mayor in D.C. history who presided over a downturn in homicide rates and an upturn in city public school achievements, fell victim to “big city politician” Vincent Gray, who is apparently “owned by special interest groups, and will only pay lip service to reform, something DC desperately needs.”
“For decades, Washington D.C.’s public schools were the laughingstock of the country, consistently ranking near the bottom in every education metric. Fed-up with the status quo, Fenty appointed Michelle Rhee as Chancellor of Washington’s schools giving her free rein to battle the self-serving teachers unions and implement reforms she deemed essential. So, did it work? How does D.C.’s education system compare to other cities, now?
“A new study by AEI’s Rick Hess examines “which of thirty major U.S. cities have cultivated a healthy environment for school reform to flourish.” Hess found that DC’s education environment now ranks second in a study of major US cities, largely due to Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee’s reforms.
“Reform is painful; Fenty bruised some egos in the process making a lot of powerful enemies. Hess writes, ‘Survey respondents report that Mayor Adrian Fenty is the only municipal leader willing to expend extensive political capital to advance education reform.’”
“Carried across the finish line by union money, Gray’s election could well nullify the education gains Fenty and Rhee made over the past three years–the last thing DC needs.”

Deborah Lambert writes the Squeaky Chalk column for Accuracy in Academia.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org.

 

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