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Re Loose Lips, “Telling Tales Out of School” (1/25):
I genuinely apologize for any part that I have played in the bickering that has taken place between the Board of Education and the mayor, and the board and the D.C. Council. I, as the person elected citywide to represent the students, the school system, and the residents, cannot in good conscience allow misrepresented facts to stand.
First, my assertion of being “aware and mentally competent” was only a response to my colleagues’ assertion that they had been too sleepy to vote when I joined in the unanimous approval of the board’s original 2003 budget request.
Second, the official Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) will show that the deficit attributed to the school system is $61 million, $37 million less than Loose Lips claims in the column. Legal opinions from Covington & Burling and Hogan & Hartson, two of the city’s most revered law firms, opined that the rest of the deficit attributable to Medicaid overpayments is highly questionable. Further, the accounting of the deficit continues to shift, as evidenced by the discrepancy between the initial calculation of the school system’s deficit and the official CAFR.
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Third, I do not know how many times we have to say it, but the Board of Education and the superintendent have not received a correct monthly fiscal statement from the chief financial officer’s office since we have been in office, putting sound fiscal governance and sound fiscal administration completely beyond our control. Please tell me if any business operates without monthly statements.
In regard to the per-pupil formula, the national cost per head used by Loose Lips means little. There is wide difference in how these numbers are computed state to state. The District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) system is currently doing research to try to bring clarity to this issue.
Meanwhile, let us keep in mind that the job before us is to build a public-school system virtually from scratch. This system has been so neglected over the years that our children have been severely damaged. In order for our children to develop so that they are academically and vocationally competitive with their neighbors in Silver Spring, Chevy Chase, Arlington, and Alexandria, the $14,400 per student mentioned by Loose Lips is a laudable goal. If you compare the cost per student to those of the top-performing charter schools—considering their philanthropic budgets as well as their public budgets—you will realize that they are spending no less. When we have knowingly or unwittingly turned out so many damaged kids and given them full membership into our social-service system and into a culture of victimhood, $14,400 a head is a small sum to turn this tide. Still, the school administration and the board are committed to doing the best we can with what we have as we advocate to get what we need.
As for Loose Lips’ statement that if the budget that I supported were to become reality, DCPS schools would have to be renamed the Sidwell Friends Public Schools, my expectations and aspirations for DCPS students are as high as if they were Sidwell Friends students. I hope and pray that Loose Lips and her readers feel the same way.
D.C. Board of Education