Who will you pick for DC Council at-large on April 23?

We asked...

DC's education system has improved in recent years for many kids, but many schools remain inadequate to our children's needs. If you could design a better school system for DC, what would it look like? Would we have more teacher evaluations or fewer? More charter schools, fewer, or different ones? More or fewer kids going to local schools? How else would your school system differ from the one we have today?

Patrick Mara responded...

Chancellor Henderson recently announced the closure of 15 under-enrolled public schools. The decision to do so was not easy, but it was critical toward the rebuilding of our school system. We need to make sure that all dollars are spent wisely and fairly. And we must always remember that our goal is to develop a world-class education system in which students from every neighborhood thrive.

Former Chancellor Michelle Rhee created a model for how to make tough decisions. It was based primarily on data. Chancellor Henderson is building on Rhee's model: analyze the data, listen to all stakeholders, and at the same time do not yield to political pressure or emotional outcry. That is what leaders do, and that is what Henderson did.

One thing our education officials need is support, and at times criticism, from leadership at every level of government and from stakeholders in the community. On the day that Chancellor Henderson announced the final list of school closures, not one other candidate in this race issued a statement.

It has been very troubling to me that education reform has seemingly fallen off the radar screen of many who seek to serve in government. Scandals, ethical lapses and the ongoing investigation into our local politics must not distract us from the single most important issue of our time: education.

In the weeks ahead Chancellor Henderson will turn her attention to the challenging task of redrawing school boundaries. I am already hearing concerns from parents. I have no doubt that the task ahead will be as contentious, if not more so, than the school closing process we've just been through.

Ask yourself this when you consider candidates running for At-Large Council: who in this race has remained focused on schools and education reform while others chased headlines and pointed fingers?

My plan for rebuilding our schools cannot be summed up in 500 words or a campaign talking point. I wish fixing our schools was that easy. I also wish that the premise of the question asked in this survey, which can be boiled down to .charters vs. public schools,. wasn't a politically loaded ruse.

The real question is: are we committed to education reform and willing to tackle the toughest issues? My answer is yes.


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