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?

Paul Zukerberg responded...

We have made great progress in school reform. But much more work needs to be done. We are blessed with many wonderful teachers, who truly care about our kids' education. They deserve our thanks and support.

I have complete confidence in school Chancellor Kaya Henderson. While I don't agree with all of her decisions, especially on closing neighborhood schools, she has my full support.

The Council's role is to set the goals, provide the resources, and let professionals, like Chancellor Henderson, achieve the results. Council meddling is too often counter- productive.

Take, for example, the truancy law proposed by David Catania's new Education Committee. The Council thinks that the answer to school truancy is to put mom in jail. The bill calls for parents to be arrested and criminally prosecuted if their kid has 20 or more unexcused absences per year. Catania's bill is misguided and heartless.

Arresting mom — probably in front of her own kids — is a terrible idea. And what happens to the children of the parents who are jailed? They are taken into child protective custody. Think of the trauma to the child who hears a knock at the door, sees mom handcuffed and taken away, and is then removed from the family home by strangers.

At high truancy schools like Ballou and Anacostia, the new law means that 45% of parents would qualify for arrest and prosecution. The Council wants to fix our schools by locking up half of the parents.

Truancy can only be addressed on a child-by-child basis. School officials and social workers need to work with parents to identify the problem, and together try to find compassionate solutions.

A kid may be missing school because of illness or serious problems at home. Maybe a child isn't going because of bullying or concerns about personal safety. How would putting mom in jail solve these problems?

Perhaps a kid just doesn't see the point of going to a failing school, where no real learning happens. To get kids to school consistently we have to create nurturing school environments where kids come because they want to belong.

If I am elected, no mom is going to go jail for truancy. Or if they do, the Council better set aside two jail cells, because you're going to have to take me along too.


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