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Four days after Mayor Vince Gray unveiled his plan to overhaul the city’s school-assignment policies for the first time in more than 40 years, one of the two leading candidates to succeed him is taking a stand against the changes.
David Catania, who chairs the D.C. Council’s education committee and is running for mayor as an independent, just released a statement signalling his opposition to the plan, which would redraw school boundaries and simplify the system for determining which schools students are eligible to attend.
“Our students need more than predictable pathways through elementary, middle, and high school,” Catania says in the statement. “They must have high-quality schools at every level, in every neighborhood. I have maintained all along that I cannot support a plan that moves students from higher performing schools to lower performing ones. Yet the final recommendations do just that.” Residents of some neighborhoods, like Crestwood, which will lose access to highly regarded Deal Middle School and Wilson High School, have criticized Gray’s solution to the longstanding problem of convoluted pathways to sometimes overcrowded schools.
Catania also argues that Gray’s plan does little to improve underperforming schools, and that its scheduled implementation in the 2015-2016 school year is too fast. As a result, he says, “I intend to take action to delay implementation of the recommendations until at least school year 2016-2017.”
As for how Catania might delay implementation—-not an easy proposition for either the D.C. Council or the new mayor—-Catania spokesman Brendan Williams-Kief says, “We’re evaluating what those options might be.” With the exception of one clause on charter schools, the plan is not subject to D.C. Council approval, although Catania could attempt legislation opposing Gray’s schedule.
“The Council can come up with any legislation that they want,” says Gray spokeswoman Doxie McCoy. “But the clock for our plan has started already.”
Catania’s main rival in the mayoral race, Democratic nominee and Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, has yet to take a position on Gray’s plan.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery