The D.C. Public Schools announced today that the annual out-of-boundary lottery process has begun, whereby parents can apply to take their kids out of their low-performing neighborhood school and, through a lottery process, put them in better-performing schools, many of which are west of Rock Creek Park.

That, of course, is what Mayor Adrian M. Fenty himself has done for his own children. Except for that whole lottery process thing.

But he still wants parents to use it. In the DCPS press release, Fenty offers this endorsement: “When it comes to education, District families want and deserve choices….[W]e encourage current and prospective parents to look both inside and beyond their neighborhood to find out more.”

A refresher: Last fall, Fenty’s twin sons were enrolled at high-performing Lafayette Elementary School in Chevy Chase, not their neighborhood school, the somewhat less successful West Elementary. For days and days, reporters pressed Fenty to explain whether he used the out-of-boundary lottery process or used some other means; Hizzoner repeatedly and testily refused to answer.

The most definite explanation ever provided came courtesy of the Washington Post editorial board, which provided what they considered to be an “innocent explanation” for the transfer: Twins need to be in separate classes, and West had only one fourth-grade classroom, so Chancellor Michelle Rhee moved them to Lafayette, which has four. Later, Rhee went on WTOP to say “no rules were broken” in the transfer but nothing else.

But that explanation didn’t hold a terrific amount of water, either. As LL pointed out, there are 14 other DCPS schools closer to the Fenty home than Lafayette where the Fenty boys could attend fourth grade. None of them had higher test scores than Lafayette.

LL’s attempts since then to get to the bottom of the matter have failed. Under DCPS rules, Rhee is empowered to transfer children from school to school under her own discretion, so LL submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to get a list of kids moved under that authority. Here’s what he got back: “In order to provide the data requested, DCPS would have to create a document, which is not required under FOIA.”

Here’s a question parents need to ask themselves before signing up for the out-of-boundary process this year: Is the lottery sound? Are the competitive slots in high-performing schools going to be available fairly to your child?

LL asked Fenty in August to reassure parents that the process was not subject to political meddling. He would not.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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