There’s a lot to unpack in the seven education bills David Catania introduced at today’s D.C. Council meeting. Catania has legislation to increase per-pupil school funding in poorer schools, create a plan to turn struggling schools into “Innovation Schools,” change how students are promoted through grades, create a unified lottery for out-of-boundary schools, and make the State Superintendent of Education more independent.
That’s an ambitious agenda for a school system that, since the passage of the Public Education Reform Act in 2007, has been under mayoral control. And the reaction from Mayor Vince Gray‘s administration to the proposals has gone two ways: We’re already doing this, and why didn’t we see this earlier?
Among the former: Catania’s proposals to change the per-pupil funding formula and introduce a unified school lottery, which Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro says is already being worked on.
Ribeiro also criticized Catania for not setting up a meeting ahead of time to discuss the bills. “It definitely raises troubling questions about what his intent is here,” he says. (Catania wasn’t available to discuss it, and his staff declined to comment.)
Emails between Catania and staffers show a dispute over whether Catania could meet with Gray without bringing along attorneys from Hogan Lovells, a law firm that helped draft the legislation. Gray’s office pushed for a one-on-one meeting, while Catania wanted to bring the attorneys.
“The mayor certainly would not feel the need to bring an entourage and I’m certain that Council Member Catania would feel the same way,” Chris Murphy, the mayor’s chief of staff, wrote to Catania’s chief of staff last month. In the end, the meeting never happened, according to Ribeiro.
D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who says she first saw the bills this morning, was similarly unimpressed with the legislation. “I can’t say that I fully understand how this set of proposals will actually move student achievement,” she says.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery