The District of Columbia City Council returns from its summer recess this Tuesday, September 20, 2012. It’s time for them to set their legislative priorities for the upcoming year.
The question is, will those priorities include issues that are important to long-time DC residents? Will the laws and policies they ultimately implement positively impact low- and moderate-income communities or will they continue to force folks out of the city in search of a friendlier, more affordable environment? Will families be able to raise their children in the District knowing that they will have access to quality and affordable housing, health care, child care and schools that are responsive to the needs and wishes of the community?
Members of Empower DC’s Education Campaign are working to make sure that Mayor Gray, Schools Chancellor Henderson and the city council are accountable to all the residents of DC and not just those that fund their campaigns. Education campaign members are concerned about the threat of public school closures in our city. School closing have not improved educational outcomes and have not yielded the savings that we were promised. Mayor Gray and Chancellor Henderson continue to publicly express that closures will save money which will be reinvested in schools that stay open, but as we have seen from the recent DC Auditor report, the last round of closures in 2008 actually cost us $30 million more than expected. Time and time again, community members are shut out of the process leading up to the closing of a school. (See Bruce Monroe Elementary School & River Terrace Elementary School)
Education organizer Daniel del Pielago says, “what we need now is better planning to ensue that Public schools are strengthened and are a viable choice for DC residents now and for the future.” To that end, Empower DC will visit the city council this Tuesday demanding that they do the following:
1. Place a Moratorium on school closings, turnarounds and transfer to charters for 5 years.
Why this demand? Because the only data which the city has made public to inform “right-sizing” the school system is the IFF report. a report prepared by a pro-charter, real-estate organization who’s single indicator analysis test scores) on school performance lacks any real information on why students score poorly. Their recommendations to close/turn over public schools to charters needs to be refuted. we need this moratorium to plan and execute an accurate building needs assessment and to develop a process which is more inclusive of parents, students, teachers and the community at large.
2. The council needs to have the evaluation of PERA (Public Education Reform Act) as soon as possible.
The DC Public School System has been under mayoral control since 2007 without a valid evaluation of its actual effect on the schools. Many decisions have been made (namely, school closures/turnovers to charters) that have not resulted in any considerable improvements of DCPS. We cannot wait until September 2014 (changed from September 2012 by the 2009 Budge Support Act) for this evaluation.
3. The council needs to hold hearings and vote on any school closing proposed this year.
Currently there is no process to involve those who will be directly impacted by closures and for the community at large to weigh in on these decisions. We need council leadership to ensure that DC residents aren’t left out of this process.
Tuesday, September 18
10 am ’til noon
John A. Wilson Building (City Hall)
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (meet in the lobby)
In addition, SHARC (Shelter, Housing and Respectful Change) will be joining Empower DC members as we visit the council. They will be focusing on the displacement of the poor, highlight the impending threat of losing 1,200 or more shelter beds in 2013 and demand affordable housing for ALL low-income residents of DC. The District of Columbia Government and business community (including landlords) are creating and instituting policies that displace tens of thousands of low- and no-income residents, many of whom have called DC “home” for a long time. At least 39,000 Afro-Americans have been gentrified out of DC over the past 10 years by high rents. Schools, libraries and clinics have been closed or relocated away from the communities that need them most. High-priced amenities such as street cars have been brought to poor neighborhoods, forcing the rent up and many residents out. Social services are being eliminated and 1,200 to 2,000 of DC’s 7,000+ homeless people may lose their shelter in 2013, only to be arrested under a vagrancy law being considered by the council.