Yet another former charter school teacher, now disillusioned, tells all

This is a long article printed on Alternet. A teacher believed so much all the hype about magical charter schools that she tried twice to form her own charter school. (She failed to get approval, rightly so, she says.)

So she went to work for an existing charter school (whose name she doesn’t provide) in Los Angeles and the scales fell from her eyes.

Here is the link.

Liz Davis

A remote memorial for my former colleague, fellow union member, friend and ally, Elizabeth Davis, is scheduled for May 6.

(Apparently I recorded an incorrect date. For details and to register for the on-line event, go to the website of the Washington Teachers’ Union.)

(If you didn’t know, Liz was the president of the WTU until her tragic death in a car crash on Easter Sunday. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.)

During my very first year teaching, Liz and I happened to be posted at the same school, a big new open-space building almost as far south as you can get and still be in DC.

Interesting times — there was a teacher strike that year, and we both were definitely doing our best to be on the left, progressive, anti-racist side of things. Looking back, I feel that I mostly made a hash of it. Liz was much more of a fighter than I was, frankly.

I haven’t been to a general membership meeting of the WTU since I retired in 2009, and I unfortunately don’t have a good reading on how well she was running things.

I only recall one serious disagreement with her, which I should explain later, but in hindsight on the event, I see we were both partly right and both partly wrong. Long story. I should write it up.

DC OSSE Shenanigans deprive DC youngsters of an education

This is amazingly damning stuff from Valerie Jablow. For example the charts at the very end of this post shows that in DC’s >>charter<< schools, as a whole the attendance figures are mostly lies, and a huge number of charter students miss most of the school year but are marked present.


Bottom line: while the attendance and scholarship problems of DCPS have been widely publicized, the ones in the charter schools are not only worse but are actively hidden.

From: educationdc <comment-reply@wordpress.com>
Date: April 9, 2021 at 11:57:38 AM EDT
To:gfbrandenburg@gmail.com
Subject:[New post] The March 2021 Auditor’s Report: Or, How DC Fails To Provide All Students Their Educations
Reply-To: educationdc <comment+z_ioq3tk92pflg6rtzqshm0c@comment.wordpress.com>



post on educationdcThe March 2021 Auditor’s Report: Or, How DC Fails To Provide All Students Their Educationsby Valerie Jablow[Ed. Note: Over just a few years, DC’s auditor has produced many pages detailing shockingly poor practices in DC’s public schools, whether mis-use of at risk fundsinequitable modernizationshigh school admissions bias, and segregation and funding inequities arising from school choice.

The auditor’s latest report on DC’s publicly funded schools, released on March 10, takes it up a notch. Spelling out how our state superintendent of education (OSSE) spent tens of millions of dollars in both federal and DC taxpayer funds to create a database of educational data to better track student data, this latest report shows that database not only doesn’t exist as promised, but the failures of OSSE to collect actionable data, and to act on the data it already has, means DC students and their educations are literally being left behind.

On March 19, the DC Council held a hearing about this report. Reality itself seemed to be on trial, as government witnesses from various DC education agencies disputed the report’s findings. The council invited public testimony, albeit written. Below is my contribution to the DC Council. Though that window for testimony has passed, these issues are not going away. More to the point: Our children depend on ALL DC elected officials being held accountable for the educationally harmful events documented herein and in the report.

I am Valerie Jablow, a DCPS parent, and this is my testimony about the March 2021 DC auditor’s report on the work of our state education agency, OSSE.The auditor’s report is disturbing validation of years of testimony by DC education advocates, as well as of news reports, about the failure of DC to provide equitable education to all its children.

This report outlines how OSSE’s poor stewardship of DC public education data, and that data’s widespread lack of reliability and validity, results in what amounts to a denial of education.Take this figure from p. 35 of the report as an example:

Copyright DC Auditor 2021The

data points on the chart on the right not aligned with the diagonal line show DC students not consistently accounted for in a way that is actionable OR trackable by OSSE and most LEAs. Those students are thus highly likely to not be receiving the educations they are entitled to–with little hope of help, because there is no systematic and comprehensive tracking of them or their records across LEAs.

And the adults in charge of those LEAs and this data testified at the council hearing on March 19 that they were OK with this.

In fact, OSSE has spent millions in federal funds to perpetuate this lack of actionable data instead of using that money for its intended purpose—which includes ensuring that all attendance in DC’s publicly funded schools is tracked accurately and is actionable by every single LEA and education actor.And yet, as bad as that is, absolutely none of this is new!

That is: Education leaders in DC have longknown how DC education data lack reliability and validity, as the report outlines, and are abused regularly.

Here are just a few examples that I (a parent without access to privileged information that every single DC education leader who testified about this auditor’s report can access) personally know about, all presented in the last few years via publicly available council testimony and reports (commissioned and/or journalism):–

OSSE has for years combined PARCC scores of math tests of different levels of difficulty, pretending that exercise is statistically meaningful;–

OSSE does not promulgate a common definition for attendance (see the auditor’s report and figure above), so attendance stats for DC charters are meaningless as a measure for >40,000 DC charter students as well as the schools they attend;–


OSSE doesn’t fulsomely track student mobility, even though students who are highly mobile experience huge academic issues and the schools that receive them mid-year (often DCPS schools with high percentages of at risk students) do not get any resources to help them;–

As the auditor’s report notes, OSSE doesn’t track courses, grades, or credit toward graduation requirements in charters, so students cannot be helped well if they change schools and are off track to graduate;–

OSSE was unconcerned with reports about a graduation scandal in two charter schools, when employees showed evidence of grade and attendance fixing;–

OSSE refused to have an independent investigation of charter school graduation data when the Ballou scandal came out, despite the auditor’s evidence that charter graduation data is problematic, as graduating classes may differ significantly from entering classes;–

OSSE has not removed the STAR rating from any school description—even though it is based on flawed attendance records (see pages 35ff and 79ff of the auditor’s report);–

OSSE was unaware that legally required science and social studies classes were not being provided at several DCPS middle schools;–

OSSE was not vetting interim education providers in charters, leaving students in terrible situations;–

OSSE has not been enforcing the Healthy Schools Act, while presenting the nonenforcement as success;–

OSSE not only falsely accused dozens, if not hundreds, of Ellington families of residency fraud, but an OSSE lawyer tried to slow-walk the investigation for political purposes;–

OSSE appeared unconcerned by nonreporting of suspension rates by charters and used data to obfuscate suspensions;–

OSSE has no guidance for LEAs regarding credit recovery;–

OSSE interfered with the process by which an independent research practice partnership would be created for DC education data;–

OSSE failed to appropriately track residency fraud for years.This is not to mention the auditor’s OTHER reports of DC education, including misuse of at risk funds and segregation arising from school choice, data for which appear to be actively ignored by DC education leaders despite OSSE being able to help.

For instance, OSSE could implement a finer assessment of who is at risk and a more granular understanding of demographics and achievement (per Robert White’s excellent question at the 3/19 hearing). And OSSE certainly could push for better use of at risk and other, targeted funds (along with tracking those funds) as well as supporting existing schools as much as the agency currently ensures greater mobility through promoting school ratings and the lottery even in the face of declining enrollments.

Yet after all these years—YEARS!–of reports, investigations, and testimony outlining continued dereliction of DC education data duty and its resulting harm to DC children, we have no substantive changes. No one at OSSE or the charter board has been fired over this as far as I know, and no one is promulgating rules to stop the democratically deviant data behaviors of these agencies or their leaders outlined in this current report.

Rather, we have expressions of shock and bewilderment, as if no one has ever heard any of this before! It’s the very definition of gaslighting: Millions of dollars spent annually on stuff that everyone in charge pretends never happened or, if it did, it was a long, long time ago in a place far, far away—hakuna matata!

But this is not a fairy tale or a movie plot. This is actually happening, right now, with our education data:–students not tracked, including some of the most vulnerable in the city, like the kids from Washington Met, more than 40 of whom NO ONE in DC has any idea where they went after the school’s closure nor how they are doing;–money not following students, including those kids kicked out of charters into DCPS schools with the highest percentages of students in poverty (which the charter board executive director noted during the 3/19 hearing she has no information about);–bankrupt school ratings based on invalid data and demographics of a cartoonishly simplistic variety that result in school closures, increasing student mobility and enriching charters that gain the buildings and “marketshare”; and–a state-level education agency governed by someone who also controls both school spending and decision making so that the data itself is inevitably politicized and abused.

As a DC taxpayer, I have to ask:Is there anything that will cause OSSE, the charter board, the mayor, and/or the DC Council to actually protect DC children from all of those things detailed above—to ensure that all student records and recordkeeping are accurate, consistent, and shared across agencies and LEAs fulsomely so KIDS are not lost; that our school ratings are not based on manipulated and incomplete data that prevent accurate assessments of student growth while pushing wrongful closures; that the education services our students are entitled to are provided at every turn; and that those services are legally adequate, safe, and equitable?

At the hearing, the auditor’s office made clear that we already have the tools to do all that–and more.But as far as I can see, it’s not happening with anyone at OSSE, the charter board, or the mayor! Instead, testimony at the hearing on this report on behalf of those agencies and the mayor was first and foremost about validating the status quo and the freedom, privacy, and security ofCharter schools and/orThe adults in charge of our schools and/orThe DC education leaders over all of them, up to and including the mayor

Bottom line: All these folks are OK with every single bad thing in the auditor’s report—and more.If that seems harsh, it’s not nearly as harsh as what the DC public lives with as a consequence. To wit:

How can DC ed leaders NOT know where all Wash Met students are?

How can DC ed leaders NOT know what courses all our students have taken?

How can DC ed leaders NOT know that some schools are not providing legally required courses?

How can DC ed leaders NOT know what interim education providers are doing?

How can DC ed leaders NOT know what students have attended school–and when and why?

How can DC ed leaders NOT know where students are and account for it accurately and reliably everywhere?

Do not think for a minute that this auditor’s report is simply about data, a database, a data “journey,” or whatever quaintly beneficent term was floated during that hearing by the agencies defending the status quo.This report is a clear outline of how DC is FAILING to provide all its children their educations.So: What are YOU going to do about it?

Valerie Jablow | April 9, 2021 at 11:56 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: https://wp.me/p6Dj0P-3WjComment   See all comments   

LikeUnsubscribe to no longer receive posts from educationdc.
Change your email settings at Manage Subscriptions.Trouble clicking? Copy and paste this URL into your browser: 
http://educationdc.net/2021/04/09/the-march-2021-auditors-report-or-how-dc-fails-to-provide-all-students-their-educations/Thanks for flying with  WordPress.com

Published in: on April 9, 2021 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

10 Year Assessment of Education Reform in DC — a Fraud, says its former director of assessments, Richard Phelps

Stolen from Valerie Jablow:

Looking Back on DC Education Reform 10 Years Later, Part 1: The Grand Tourby Valerie Jablow

[Ed. Note: As DC’s office of the state superintendent of education (OSSE) seeks a waiver of PARCC testing again (recall that OSSE waived PARCC last school year due to the pandemic) and the DC auditor just released a bombshell report of poor stewardship of DC’s education data, it is time to revisit how standardized test data, teacher evaluations, and harsh school penalties were united by ed reformers in DCPS under mayoral control. This first-hand account of what went down in DCPS, the first of two parts by semi-retired educator Richard P. Phelps, appeared in Nonpartisan Education Review in September 2020 and is reprinted here with permission. The author thanks DC budget expert Mary Levy and retired DCPS teacher Erich Martel for their helpful comments in the research of this article.]

By Richard P. Phelps

Ten years ago, I worked as the director of assessments for DCPS. My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as chancellor. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary.

My primary task was to design an expansion of that testing program that served the IMPACT teacher evaluation system to include all core subjects and all grade levels. Despite its fame (or infamy), the test score aspect of the IMPACT program affected only 13% of teachers, those teaching either reading or math in grades four through eight. Only those subjects and grade levels included the requisite pre- and post-tests required for teacher “value added” measurements (VAM). Not included were most subjects (e.g., science, social studies, art, music, physical education), grades kindergarten to two, and high school.

Chancellor Rhee wanted many more teachers included. So, I designed a system that would cover more than half the DCPS teacher force, from kindergarten through high school. You haven’t heard about it because it never happened. The newly elected Vincent Gray had promised during his mayoral campaign to reduce the amount of testing; the proposed expansion would have increased it fourfold.

VAM affected teachers’ jobs. A low value-added score could lead to termination; a high score, to promotion and a cash bonus. VAM as it was then structured was obviously, glaringly flawed, as anyone with a strong background in educational testing could have seen. Unfortunately, among the many new central office hires from the elite of ed reform circles, none had such a background. (Even a primary grades teacher with the same group of students the entire school day had those students for less than six hours a day, five days a week, for less than half the year. All told, even in the highest exposure circumstances, a teacher interacted with the same group of students for less than a tenth of each student’s waking hours in a year, and for less than a twentieth in the tested subjects of English and math. In the lowest exposure circumstance, a high school teacher might interact with a class of English or math students for less than three percent of a student’s annual hours.

Before posting a request for proposals from commercial test developers for the testing expansion plan, I was instructed to survey two groups of stakeholders—central office managers and school-level teachers and administrators.

Not surprisingly, some of the central office managers consulted requested additions or changes to the proposed testing program where they thought it would benefit their domain of responsibility. The net effect on school-level personnel would have been to add to their administrative burden. Nonetheless, all requests from central office managers would be honored.

The Grand Tour

At about the same time, over several weeks of the late spring and early summer of 2010, along with a bright summer intern, I visited a dozen DCPS schools. The alleged purpose was to collect feedback on the design of the expanded testing program. I enjoyed these meetings. They were informative, animated, and very well attended. School staff appreciated the apparent opportunity to contribute to policy decisions and tried to make the most of it.

Each school greeted us with a full complement of faculty and staff on their days off, numbering a several dozen educators at some venues. They believed what we had told them: that we were in the process of redesigning the DCPS assessment program and were genuinely interested in their suggestions for how best to do it.

At no venue did we encounter stand-pat knee-jerk rejection of education reform efforts. Some educators were avowed advocates for the Rhee administration’s reform policies, but most were basically dedicated educators determined to do what was best for their community within the current context.

The Grand Tour was insightful, too. I learned for the first time of certain aspects of DCPS’s assessment system that were essential to consider in its proper design, aspects of which the higher-ups in the DCPS Central Office either were not aware or did not consider relevant.

The group of visited schools represented DCPS as a whole in appropriate proportions geographically, ethnically, and by education level (i.e., primary, middle, and high). Within those parameters, however, only schools with “friendly” administrations were chosen. That is, we only visited schools with principals and staff openly supportive of the Rhee-Henderson agenda.

But even they desired changes to the testing program, whether or not it was expanded. Their suggestions covered both the annual districtwide DC-CAS (or “comprehensive” assessment system), on which the teacher evaluation system was based, and the DC-BAS (or “benchmarking” assessment system), a series of four annual “no-stakes” interim tests unique to DCPS, ostensibly offered to help prepare students and teachers for the consequential-for-some-school-staff DC-CAS. (Though officially “no stakes,” some principals analyzed results from the DC-BAS to identify students whose scores lay just under the next higher benchmark and encouraged teachers to focus their instructional efforts on them. Moreover, at the high school level, where testing occurred only in grade 10, students who performed poorly on the DC-BAS might be artificially re-classified as held-back 9th graders or advanced prematurely to 11th grade in order to avoid the DC-CAS.)

At each staff meeting I asked for a show of hands on several issues of interest that I thought were actionable. Some suggestions for program changes received close to unanimous support. Allow me to describe several.

***Move DC-CAS test administration later in the school year. Many citizens may have logically assumed that the IMPACT teacher evaluation numbers were calculated from a standard pre-post test schedule, testing a teacher’s students at the beginning of their academic year together and then again at the end. In 2010, however, the DC-CAS was administered in March, three months before school year end. Moreover, that single administration of the test served as both pre- and post-test, posttest for the current school year and pretest for the following school year. Thus, before a teacher even met their new students in late August or early September, almost half of the year for which teachers were judged had already transpired—the three months in the spring spent with the previous year’s teacher and almost three months of summer vacation.

School staff recommended pushing DC-CAS administration to later in the school year. Furthermore, they advocated a genuine pre-post-test administration schedule—pre-test the students in late August–early September and post-test them in late-May–early June—to cover a teacher’s actual span of time with the students.

This suggestion was rejected because the test development firm with the DC-CAS contract required three months to score some portions of the test in time for the IMPACT teacher ratings scheduled for early July delivery, before the start of the new school year. Some small number of teachers would be terminated based on their IMPACT scores, so management demanded those scores be available before preparations for the new school year began. (Even a primary grades teacher with the same group of students the entire school day had those students for less than six hours a day, five days a week, for less than half the year. All told, even in the highest exposure circumstances, a teacher interacted with the same group of students for less than a tenth of each student’s waking hours in a year, and for less than a twentieth in the tested subjects of English and math. In the lowest exposure circumstance, a high school teacher might interact with a class of English or math students for less than three percent of a student’s annual hours.)

The tail wagged the dog.

***Add some stakes to the DC-CAS in the upper grades. Because DC-CAS test scores portended consequences for teachers but none for students, some students expended little effort on the test. Indeed, extensive research on “no-stakes” (for students) tests reveal that motivation and effort vary by a range of factors including gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, the weather, and age. Generally, the older the student, the lower the test-taking effort. This disadvantaged some teachers in the IMPACT ratings for circumstances beyond their control: unlucky student demographics.

Central office management rejected this suggestion to add even modest stakes to the upper grades’ DC-CAS; no reason given.

***Move one of the DC-BAS tests to year end. If management rejected the suggestion to move DC-CAS test administration to the end of the school year, school staff suggested scheduling one of the no-stakes DC-BAS benchmarking tests for late May–early June. As it was, the schedule squeezed all four benchmarking test administrations between early September and mid-February. Moving just one of them to the end of the year would give the following year’s teachers a more recent reading (by more than three months) of their new students’ academic levels and needs.

Central office management rejected this suggestion probably because the real purpose of the DC-BAS was not to help teachers understand their students’ academic levels and needs, as the following will explain.

***Change DC-BAS tests so they cover recently taught content. Many DC citizens probably assumed that, like most tests, the DC-BAS interim tests covered recently taught content, such as that covered since the previous test administration. Not so in 2010. The first annual DC-BAS was administered in early September, just after the year’s courses commenced. Moreover, it covered the same content domain—that for the entirety of the school year—as each of the next three DC-BAS tests.

School staff proposed changing the full-year “comprehensive” content coverage of each DC-BAS test to partial-year “cumulative” coverage, so students would only be tested on what they had been taught prior to each test administration.

This suggestion, too, was rejected. Testing the same full-year comprehensive content domain produced a predictable, flattering score rise. With each DC-BAS test administration, students recognized more of the content, because they had just been exposed to more of it, so average scores predictably rose. With test scores always rising, it looked like student achievement improved steadily each year. Achieving this contrived score increase required testing students on some material to which they had not yet been exposed, both a violation of professional testing standards and a poor method for instilling student confidence. (Of course, it was also less expensive to administer essentially the same test four times a year than to develop four genuinely different tests.)

***Synchronize the sequencing of curricular content across the District. DCPS management rhetoric circa 2010 attributed classroom-level benefits to the testing program. Teachers would know more about their students’ levels and needs and could also learn from each other. Yet, the only student test results teachers received at the beginning of each school year was half-a-year old, and most of the information they received over the course of four DC-BAS test administrations was based on not-yet-taught content.

As for cross-district teacher cooperation, unfortunately there was no cross-District coordination of common curricular sequences. Each teacher paced their subject matter however they wished and varied topical emphases according to their own personal preference.

It took DCPS’s chief academic officer, Carey Wright, and her chief of staff, Dan Gordon, less than a minute to reject the suggestion to standardize topical sequencing across schools so that teachers could consult with one another in real time. Tallying up the votes: several hundred school-level District educators favored the proposal, two of Rhee’s trusted lieutenants opposed it. It lost.

***Offer and require a keyboarding course in the early grades. DCPS was planning to convert all its testing from paper-and-pencil mode to computer delivery within a few years. Yet, keyboarding courses were rare in the early grades. Obviously, without systemwide keyboarding training in computer use some students would be at a disadvantage in computer testing.

Suggestion rejected.

In all, I had polled over 500 DCPS school staff. Not only were all of their suggestions reasonable, some were essential in order to comply with professional assessment standards and ethics.

Nonetheless, back at DCPS’s central office, each suggestion was rejected without, to my observation, any serious consideration. The rejecters included Chancellor Rhee, the head of the office of data and accountability—the self-titled “Data Lady,” Erin McGoldrick—and the head of the curriculum and instruction division, Carey Wright, and her chief deputy, Dan Gordon.

Four central office staff outvoted several hundred school staff (and my recommendations as assessment director). In each case, the changes recommended would have meant some additional work on their parts, but in return for substantial improvements in the testing program. Their rhetoric was all about helping teachers and students; but the facts were that the testing program wasn’t structured to help them.

What was the purpose of my several weeks of school visits and staff polling? To solicit “buy in” from school level staff, not feedback.

Ultimately, the new testing program proposal would incorporate all the new features requested by senior central office staff, no matter how burdensome, and not a single feature requested by several hundred supportive school-level staff, no matter how helpful. Like many others, I had hoped that the education reform intention of the Rhee-Henderson years was genuine. DCPS could certainly have benefitted from some genuine reform.

Alas, much of the activity labelled “reform” was just for show, and for padding resumes. Numerous central office managers would later work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Numerous others would work for entities supported by the Gates or aligned foundations, or in jurisdictions such as Louisiana, where ed reformers held political power. Most would be well paid.

Their genuine accomplishments, or lack thereof, while at DCPS seemed to matter little. What mattered was the appearance of accomplishment and, above all, loyalty to the group. That loyalty required going along to get along: complicity in maintaining the façade of success while withholding any public criticism of or disagreement with other in-group members.

Unfortunately, in the United States what is commonly showcased as education reform is neither a civic enterprise nor a popular movement. Neither parents, the public, nor school-level educators have any direct influence. Rather, at the national level, U.S. education reform is an elite, private club—a small group of tightly connected politicos and academics—a mutual admiration society dedicated to the career advancement, political influence, and financial benefit of its members, supported by a gaggle of wealthy foundations (e.g., Gates, Walton, Broad, Wallace, Hewlett, Smith-Richardson).

For over a decade, The Ed Reform Club exploited DC for its own benefit. Local elite formed the DC Public Education Fund (DCPEF) to sponsor education projects, such as IMPACT, which they deemed worthy. In the negotiations between the Washington Teachers’ Union and DCPS concluded in 2010, DCPEF arranged a 3-year grant of $64.5 million from the Arnold, Broad, Robertson, and Walton foundations to fund a 5-year retroactive teacher pay raise in return for contract language allowing teacher excessing tied to IMPACT, which Rhee promised would lead to annual student test score increases by 2012. Projected goals were not met; foundation support continued nonetheless.

Michelle Johnson (nee Rhee) chaired the board of a charter school chain in California and occasionally collects $30,000+ in speaker fees but, otherwise, seems to have deliberately withdrawn from the limelight. Despite contributing her own additional scandals after she assumed the DCPS chancellorship, Kaya Henderson ascended to great fame and glory with a “distinguished professorship” at Georgetown; honorary degrees from Georgetown and Catholic universities; gigs with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Broad Leadership Academy, and Teach for All; and board memberships with The Aspen Institute, The College Board, Robin Hood NYC, and Teach For America. Carey Wright is now state superintendent in Mississippi. Dan Gordon runs a 30-person consulting firm, Education Counsel, which strategically partners with major players in U.S. education policy. The manager of the IMPACT teacher evaluation program, Jason Kamras, now works as superintendent of the Richmond, VA public schools.

Arguably the person most directly responsible for the recurring assessment system fiascos of the Rhee-Henderson years, then chief of data and accountability Erin McGoldrick, now specializes in “data innovation” as partner and chief operating officer at an education management consulting firm. Her firm, Kitamba, strategically partners with its own panoply of major players in U.S. education policy. Its list of recent clients includes the DC Public Charter School Board and DCPS.

If the ambitious DC central office folk who gaudily declared themselves leading education reformers were not really, who were the genuine education reformers during the Rhee-Henderson decade of massive upheaval and per-student expenditures three times those in the state of Utah? They were the school principals and staff whose practical suggestions were ignored by central office glitterati. They were whistleblowers like history teacher Erich Martel, who had documented DCPS’s manipulation of student records and phony graduation rates years before the investigation of Ballou High School and was demoted and then “excessed” by Henderson. Or school principal Adell Cothorne, who spilled the beans on test answer sheet “erasure parties” at Noyes Education Campus and lost her job under Rhee.

Real reformers with “skin in the game” can’t play it safe.Valerie Jablow | March 11, 2021 at 4:28 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: https://wp.me/p6Dj0P-3TL

Reasons for DC statehood

Someone recently wrote a screed in the Chevy Chase DC neighborhood list-serve, opposing DC statehood, basically saying that DC government already spends too much and would see statehood as a new gravy train.

The attack on DC statehood sounded to me very much like a veiled attack on the regime of the long-dead Marion Barry and a supposedly graft-ridden city infested with too many Black folks — but maybe that’s just me being too sensitive? True, he didn’t use any racist code-words, but…)

The measured response below was written by somebody named Ed Myers.

I did a little research myself and found that a lot of other state governments with about the same population as DC or even less, have state legislatures much larger than DC’s city council and who are each paid a fair amount of money.

Now, if you have 10 times more legislators than DC does, as some of these states do, and if the state pays them 1/2 as much as the DC government pays its city council, then that would still mean that DC pays one-fifth as much for its full-time legislative body as those states do. Just sayin‘.

A brief calculation reveals that Vermont, with fewer people than DC, has a combined Senate and Legislature of 180 elected citizens. Adding up their weekly stipend and the number of weeks they are actually in session, I found that Vermont pays them just under two million dollars per year. DC pays its 12 ordinary members $140K per year, with the Chairman earning $210K. If you add those up, you get just about the same compensation for our full-time City Council as Vermont does for its enormous part-time legislature.

I’ll run the numbers again later.

With the matter of the SUVs: Kwame Brown did this 10 years ago and was roundly excoriated. Notice that he’s not on the council any more!

====================

By Ed Byers
A few thoughts, subject to refinements, on some statehood questions:

1. Would statehood for DC mean an expansion of our DC government?

DC already has the responsibilities of a state; just not the rights.  It is doubtful that we will need much governmental expansion in our new state. DC’s proposed constitution (see link) does not seem to contain much, if any, of a power grab. DC would pick up some responsibilities in criminal justice. If the new state government wanted expansion beyond its current levels, it would have to pass its budgets through the usual public process. If the Governor and Legislative Assembly proposed excessive budgets, in DC resident views, then they would be subject to being voted out.

https://statehood.dc.gov/page/draft-constitution

2. Does DC have excessive bureaucracy?

A concern was expressed that, “We already have 4 times as many city/county/state workers as any other major city in the country.” It is inaccurate to compare DC’s state/county/municipal workforce size to the workforces of other municipalities, which lack county and state responsibilities. Nonetheless, I would like to see some citation on the “4 times” data?  A US Census Bureau special study on DC’s workforce size, conducted many years ago, found that we are in line with other jurisdictions, once state, county, and city functions are combined. This study could be updated, at low cost.

3. Would statehood result in expansion of the DC Council?

A concern has been expressed that the DC Council with 13 members is already excessive in size, on a per capita basis, compared to New York City.  It is inaccurate to compare a city council in another state’s city with DC’s council size, since we have all of our state and county responsibilities added in to what our DC Council does.  Looking at the size of some state legislatures:

DC has more voting age population than Alaska. Alaska has 60 members in its Senate/House legislative body. Wyoming, with far fewer people than DC in population, has a combined Senate/House total of 90 members. Vermont has fewer people than DC, and it has 180 members. Other states with similar populations to DC’s could also be cited, with similar results. Of course many of those members are paid low salaries or stipends. This will all have to be argued out in DC, as we become a new state. 

According to a Washington Post (May 6, 2016) view of potential expansion of the government resulting from statehood, just looking at the proposed DC constitution:

…the District would not create many new positions, such as a lieutenant governor or a 40-member legislature. Rather, it would keep the current city council size of 13 members, elect them in the same fashion but call the body a state legislature.

4. Is DC economically viable enough to be a state?

As noted earlier, DC’s population is greater than that of Vermont and Wyoming, and we have a larger voting age population than Alaska. We would be first among states in GDP per capita, first by median household income, and 34th by total GDP among all states.

5. What is DC’s tax burden?  Would it grow if we no longer got federal help?

DC already pays more federal taxes in absolute dollar amounts than do 22 states. In per capita taxes, DC ranks number one in federal taxes paid. When Congress adopted COVID relief to states, DC’s share was at a far lower level than a state’s per capita share; we were treated as a territory, even though (unlike territories) we pay the same federal tax rates as do the states.

DC receives between 25 and 30 percent of its budget from the feds. This is less than found in five states and on par with three others.  We should keep in mind that half of our land is tax exempt due to federal and foreign government land use, with much of it (to be computed) outside the proposed federal enclave.  Moreover, national charitable organizations are given property tax exemptions via special act of Congress. We should not lose compensation for continuing conditions.

Most importantly, every state in America has the power to tax the income of nonresidents earning income within its borders. This is the standard non-resident income tax (as distinct from a commuter tax that some cities have), with a full credit given on home state taxes. Some adjustment in the new state for non-resident taxation would provide for significantly lower DC residents’ tax burdens in a new state. 

6. Is DC statehood just a Democratic Party power play to change the composition of the Senate?

The US Senate already has a strong rural bias, with low-population states like Wyoming having the same number of senators as California. Allowing DC citizens to have the same democratic rights as do other citizens in the 50 states would mean correcting for some, and far from all, of the Senate’s current rural bias.

7.  Further resident participation in shaping DC Statehood

HR 51 provides for adoption of a state constitution in Sec. 401 (5), which has already taken a number of steps. From H.R. 51:

The term “State Constitution” means the proposed Constitution of the State of Washington, D.C., as approved by the Council on October 18, 2016, pursuant to the Constitution and Boundaries for the State of Washington, D.C. Approval Resolution of 2016 (D.C. Resolution R21–621), ratified by District of Columbia voters in Advisory Referendum B approved on November 8, 2016, and certified by the District of Columbia Board of Elections on November 18, 2016.

An 18-member Statehood Transition Commission is established in Sec 402 of H.R. 51 to provide detailed guidance, composed of federal and DC members. The Commission is authorized to hold public hearings as their work proceeds.

8. Is DC ready for statehood?

Concerns are at times expressed about DC’s lack of responsible behavior. For example, did the Council vote themselves $50,000 SUVs, as has been commented? Maybe (I can’t find anything on that). The other side of that same coin:  DC every day overcomes challenges of deep poverty concentrations (zoned into DC by our suburbs, and implemented by the feds before home rule). DC welcomes these opportunities to help people lift themselves from poverty concentrations. DC does so while achieving good performance ratings on the full variety of DC services and with balanced budgets. 

DC is long overdue (and more than just “ready”) for democracy and the rights of citizenship experienced throughout the USA. The nation could learn much from us if we could participate fully in our democracy.

Ed Meyers

Published in: on February 16, 2021 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

It’s Way Past Time for D.C. Statehood — but we can do it NOW!!

We DC residents have long complained about not having any representation in Congress.

Boys and girls, WE CAN FIX THIS, RIGHT NOW!

A bill to admit most of the land, and nearly all the people, residing inside Washington DC into the Union as an ordinary state, has actually passed the US House of Representatives.

All we need now is FIVE more senators to sign on and to reverse this long-standing wrong, where over seven hundred thousand citizens of the US, who pay loads of federal taxes and are subject to the draft, can at long last have a Member of Congress and two Senators, just like Vermont or Wyoming, which both have fewer inhabitants than DC does. (We are almost caught up with Alaska, too!)

You may think that admitting DC as the 51st state would require a constitutional amendment, but it doesn’t. Under the law now pending in the Senate, the Federal City would shrink down basically to the part that most tourists visit, along the National Mall and from the Jefferson Memorial to the White House and Supreme Court/Library of Congress. All the rest of the roughly 60 square miles of the city would be admitted as Washington, Douglas Commonwealth, under the normal procedures for admitting a state. (Yes, DC residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of statehood just two years ago.) No constitutional amendment or supermajority is needed; the Federal CIty as outlined in the Constitution would remain; it would just be smaller.

So if we get five more senators to come out in favor of accepting DC as a state, THEN IT WILL HAPPEN, and a plurality-Black city with more citizens than two other states would finally get to have their votes matter!

If you are not sure of why this is needed, check out https://www.the51st.org/.

So, here are the five senators. If you live in their states, please call them or text them or write them a letter, tweet them, etc etc. Ask your friends and relatives as well, if they live in their districts.

Thank you!

AlaskaLisa MurkowskiRepublican
ArizonaKyrsten SinemaDemocratic
MaineSusan CollinsRepublican
MaineAngus KingIndependent
West VirginiaJoe ManchinDemocratic

.

Published in: on February 5, 2021 at 7:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

The Road Not Taken

A few quotes from Lerone Bennett’s article in Ebony 50 years ago. It opened my eyes.

The race problem in America was a deliberate invention of men who systematically separated blacks and whites in order to make money. This was, as Kenneth Stampp so cogently observed, a deliberate choice among several alternatives. Slavery, he said,

“cannot be attributed to some deadly atmospheric miasma or some irresistible force in the South’s economic evolution. The use of slaves in southern agriculture was a deliberate choice (among several alternatives) made by men who sought greater returns than they could obtain from their own labor alone, and who found other types of labor more expensive…”

It didn’t have to happen that way. Back there, before Jim Crow, before the invention of the Negro or the white man or the words and concepts to describe them, the Colonial population consisted largely of a great mass of white and black bondsmen, who occupied roughly the same economic category and were treated with equal contempt by the lords of the plantations and legislatures. Curiously unconcerned about their color, these people worked together and relaxed together. They had essentially the same interests, the same aspirations, arid the same grievances. They conspired together and waged a common struggle against their common enemy — the big planter apparatus and a social system that legalized terror against black and white bondsmen. No one says and no one believes that there was a Garden of Eden in Colonial America. But the available evidence, slight though it is, suggests that there were widening bonds of solidarity between the first generation of blacks and whites. And the same evidence indicates that it proved very difficult indeed to teach white people to worship their skin.”

(From Lerone Bennett, The Shaping of Black America. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Co., 1975, pp. 61-82. Originally published in Ebony, vol. 25 (August, 1970), pp. 71- 77). Copied and pasted from https://multiracialunity.org/2016/05/22/the-road-not-taken-by-lerone-bennett/

Published in: on February 1, 2021 at 10:38 pm  Comments (2)  

A Secret Task Force of Billionaire-Backed Ed ‘Reformers’ Have Once Again Monopolized DC School Leadership

Valerie Jablow writes periodically about abuses of leadership in DC publicly-funded schools. In this post, she reports on a task force — completely unknown to the public — that is in charge of deciding what to do about ‘learning loss’ during the current pandemic.

I’ll quote a few passages, but I advise you to read the whole thing here.

“The task force members, almost to a person, have ties to ed reform, school choice, and charter proliferation, with many working for organizations that have received private foundation money (Walton, Gates) that has fueled the same.

“The only public hint that the task force existed at all was dropped back in December, when a COW report said this on p. 7 (boldface mine):

“’The Committee [COW] has also worked to understand the learning loss students have experienced during the pandemic and what strategies the District should pursue to mitigate it. Recognizing that the pandemic is an unprecedented situation and that alleviating substantial learning loss would require innovative, yet proven methods, the Committee assembled a taskforce of public education experts and researchers in May 2020For the past six months, the Committee has met regularly with the taskforce and gained a deeper understanding of the learning loss that is occurring in the District. The taskforce has also identified strategies that have been used to ease the learning loss that occurs annually over summer break and ways to adapt those strategies to the current situation. The Committee has used this information to guide its oversight of DCPS and public charter schools’ mitigation efforts. Moreover, recommendations from this taskforce helped guide the Committee’s budget priorities for the fiscal year 2021 budget.’

“The idea of the council meeting with this (non-teacher) task force to worry over learning loss (and its BFF, re-opening schools), while at the same time limiting public voices at hearings on re-opening in December and January (not to mention entirely eliminating the education committee), is pretty rich.”

“But it gets even richer when you consider the following:

“–Only a bit more than half of the DCPS slots allocated for in person learning were claimed days before it was slated to begin, which suggests less-than-enthusiastic buy-in for in person learning.

“–The office of the state superintendent of education (OSSE) is determined to move ahead with PARCC testing, despite the fact that it’s not likely schools will make the 95% participation OSSE requires before imposing penalties—and that testing conditions will be, uh, variable.

“The irony with that last piece is that applications for seats of choice are waaaaay down this school year, with nearly every ward and every grade seeing huge drops in applications through the lottery.

“Despite that reality (outlined at the January meeting of OSSE’s common lottery board), the board touted the success of its annual Ed Fest, which this year featured 1,473 virtual participants (out of more than 90,000 students in DC’s publicly funded schools—but hey, who’s counting?)”

Jablow also points out that it’s very hard for parents, students or teachers to keep up with all the school closings (especially among the charter schools) in DC. Also, it remains the case that in DC (as in most of the USA) the worst-run schools are reserved for underserved, low-income Black and Latino children. Here are a couple of charts on this:

List of Blogs!

From Curmudgucation (Retired English teacher Peter Greene in PA):

(GFB wrote none of this)
The Curmudgureading List
Posted: 27 Jan 2021 11:50 AM PST

I was recently reminded that it has been a while since I’ve done one of these. The edublogging universe has, I think, shrunk a bit in the last year or two, which is not to say that there aren’t still hundreds out there. But lots of folks come and go, and I drop blogs from the list on the side when they’ve gone dormant for more than a few months. There has also been a shift to newsletters and substacks and podcasting, as well as, I think, a loss of more conservative voices in support of public ed.  I’m going to stick to good old fashioned web-based education policy text here, mostly, with blogs, magazine style sites, and a few key organizations. A web presence is not an easy thing to maintain, but here’s what’s out there right now that’s worth reading–or at least, that I know about. 
Recommendations always gratefully accepted.
Let me know what I missed.

Accountabaloney
Florida-centric blog is one of the best-looking blogs around. This duo stays on top of Florida’s education shenanigans, which is no small feat.

Affective Living
Chase Mielke writes this blog that focuses on teacher burnout. Practical and frequently helpful.

Alfie Kohn
Infrequent blogger, but always interesting with plenty of resources, particularly if you’re interested in getting away from grading and testing.

Bellowings
Akil Bello is a testing expert and a good follow on Twitter. While he blogs infrequently, it’s always worthwhile, and this is one of those blogs that’s worth a stroll through the archives, particularly if you’re reading up on big standardized tests.

Big Education Ape
After all these years, still king of the edu-blog aggregators. He’ll give you a taste and a link  and do not discount the value of the art that he adds. 

Bust-ED Pencils 
 One of the few (okay, two podcasts on the list. Passionate and progressive, hosted by Dr. Timothy Slekar. All of the big guns have stopped by at one time or another.

Blue Cereal Education  
Formerly based in OK, he’s now hunkered down in Indiana. Lots of issues covered, but he’s also working his way through Supreme Court cases dealing with church and state separation.

Bright Lights, Small City
Sarah Lahm keeps an eye on Minneapolis schools, policy and politics. It’s yet another regional stage where reformster ideas go for their out of town trial runs.

Caffeinated Rage
North Carolina is the home base for this prolific look at education policy, politics, and public education.

Citizen Teacher
Lisa Eddy taught ELA for 25 years, collected a variety of awards, and just generally worked her buns off. Now she cranks out frequent posts focusing on education and politics

Class Size Matters 
A site devoted to exactly that issue. Loads of good materials here to support the obvious.

Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo
One of the few remaining blogs at Education Week, Ferlazzo talks about pedagogical practicalities and also policy and politics and ethics in the classroom

Cloaking Inequity
The blog of Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig. Lots of smart, researched info, much of it organized by topic.

 Dad Gone Wild
TC Weber covers Tennessee thoroughly and with sharp wit and pithy quotes. “Nobody reads it. Everybody quotes it.”

DCulberhouse
“Engaging in conversations around education and leadership,” and sometimes getting into some heavy but interesting stuff about systems and complexity. 

Defending the Early Years
Research and advocacy for the littles. I’m a big fan of this organization.

Deutsch29
I call her the indispensable Mercedes Schneider. A research monster and prolific writer, even as she does the classroom work. When you’re looking for facts and the background connections, all roads lead here.

Diane Ravitch
If you read me, you probably read Ravitch, whose blog is like the town square for all the advocates for public education. The sheer volume of posts can be daunting, but because she is so very generous with her platform and audience, there is no better place to “meet” all the people writing about public education .

Eclectablog
The source for Michigan news from a progressive perspective. That includes education in the DeVos stomping grounds. Mitchell Robinson writes for these folks.

Ed in the Apple
All about the intersection of education and politics in New York.

Ed Politics
A web magazine covering te political angles. Good place to find Jeff Bryant, a major independent pro-public ed journalist.

Educolor
“EduColor has been at the forefront of anti-racist, culturally competent, justice-centered conversations since its inception in 2014.” 

Fairtest
The organization advocating to keep testing fair and open and, well, less. 

Finding Common Ground
Another EdWeek blog, this by Peter DeWitt, who takes a tempered and thoughtful approach to the issues of the day.

Fourth Generation Teacher
I don’t go back to this blog often enough, but when I do, I always find thoughtful, insightful pieces about the teaching life.

Fred Klonsky
Politics, unions, and education with a Chicago flavor.

Gadfly on the Wall
Nobody gets more fired up than my fellow Pennsylvanian Steven Singer. Unabashedly progressive, pro-union, pro-teacher and pretty fiery about all of it. 

Gary Rubinstein’s Blog Rubinstein is a math teacher, proof that sometimes Teach for America products grow up to be real teachers. He’s been at the blogging work for a long time. He writes about the craft and occasionally digs into the data to debunk popular reformster ideas.

G F Brandenburg’s Blog
A retired math teacher who collects plenty of good reads from around the web along with his own excellent insights. Another blogger who’s been at this for a while.


Grumpy Old Teache
National education perspectives with the kind of attitude you know I appreciate.

Hack Education
If you have even a passing interest in education technology, Audrey Watters is required reading. Nobody is more knowledgable, more insightful, more adept at connecting the dots, or more willing to call bullshit. Required reading.

Have You Heard
The other podcast on the list (though they always post a transcript as well for us reader types). Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire are great interviewers, and this podcast brings some great people to the mic, along with some excellent insights from the hosts.

In the Public Interes
A site and organization with a wide-ranging public interest, and that includes keeping an eye on the privatization of public education.

Jan RessegerThoughtful, insightful, and always well-sourced look at education policy in the US.

Jersey Jazzman  
Nobody does a better job rendering data (especially financial stuff) in ways that make sense to ordinary mortals.

Just Visiting
Inside Higher Education hosts a variety of bloggers, but John Warner is my only regular read. Warner is particular sharp on the topic of writing.

eystone State Education Coalition
Excellent and thorough roundup of ed policy issues and articles in Pennsylvania.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice
Well, blog titles don’t come any more accurately descriptive than that.

Larry Lee on Education
Lee is based in Alabama, a state that provides ample opportunity to consider problems in education policy.

Living Dialogue
Anthony Cody’s site has evolved into a far-ranging education magazine covering a wide variety of topics and writers.

Momma Bears
One of the many parent blogs that maintains feisty, skeptical eyes on corporate education reform.

Mr. Fitz
There ought to be more education reality centered comic strips, but at least we have Mr. Fitz

Nancy Bailey’s Education Website
Activist and pro-public school, looking at topics on the national scale. I never miss a post.

National Education Policy Center
Scholarly responses to reformy articles and “papers” and a blog-post-of-the-day. NEPC is just the place to look for solid responses to what you know is wrong.

Network for Public Education
NPE has established itself as a strong advocacy and research group in support of public education. Check out the research papers, or look at the page #AnotherDayAnotherCharterScandal for a catalogue of charter misbehavior.

Notes from the Chalkboard
Justin Parmenter is based in North Carolina, where he periodically ruffles feathers and raises some dust. 

Notes from the Educational Trenches  
“I feel like I’m living in the old fable, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes.'” Perspective from a classroom teacher.

NYC Educator
He’s been at it a really long time. Sly, snarky and well-versed in the nuts and bolts of education in the city that doesn’t sleep often or well.

Othmar’s Trombone
I couldn’t resist the name. Based in the UK, just so you know some of these issues transcend borders.

Plunderbund
Covering the politics of Ohio, including their crazy-pants ed scene, magazine style.

Politics K-12
EdWeek’s tag team of current ed policy news and the politics attached to it. Always on top of the breaking news.

Public School Shakedown at The Progressive
Remember when every magazine and news organization had an education tab? The Progressive still keeps a stable of quality (education writers (and me)  on tap to write about education.

Radical eyes for equity
Paul Thomas always makes me feel smarter for reading him, but he also knows whart’s what when it comes to comics. 

Rick Hess Straight Up
Another Ed Week blog, this by the education guy from the American Enterprise Institute, so free market ed reform guy, but generally an intellectually honest one. 

School Finance 101
The ins and outs of school finance, with Bruce Baker cutting through the noise. This is where I first learned about how charterization can involve the taxpayers buying the same building multiple times.

School Matters
Longtime observer of the public education scene in Indiana, another hotbed of reformster shenanigans.

Schools Matter
The team of writers here take no prisoners, ever, but they’ve been at this for a while and they do their digging. No sympathy for corporate interests here.

Teacher in a Strange Land
Retired music teacher Nancy Flanagan blogged for years at EdWeek, but a while back decided to strike out on her own so she could write with more freedom. Often personal, always insightful.

Teacher Tom
A pre-school teacher in Seattle offers meditations on education, children, and life. Great look at connections between learning and life’s important lessons.

Tennessee Education Report
Andy Spears knows what’s going on in Tennessee, which is one of the states where ed reformy ideas are road tested. Solid reporting.

The 21st Century Principal
John Robinson has done it all, starting with years as an ELA teacher, so his blog brings together edu-threads from literature to politics to the philosophical underpinnings of the work.

The Answer Sheet
Valerie Strauss’s column at the Washington Post is always on point, and features plenty of good guest stars (Carol Burris often appears). And people answer her emails and phone calls, which means she gets the stuff that most lowly bloggers do not. Plus she’s a pleasantly pro-public school voice at a newspaper that’s not always helpful.

The Jose Vilson
Former NYC math teacher, now grad student, and a heck of a writer. Founding leader of Educolor. What a voice.

The Merrow Report
John Merrow was a leading national education reporter for decades. He’s retired now, but clearly there’s still an itch there.

The Tempered Radical
Bill Ferriter is a teacher and a top-notch PD guy, too. Collaborative teams are his thing, but sometims he just has to speak up about policy and politics.

Tultican
Thomas Ultican sits down and digs deep. In his blog you find many definitive takes that gather everything out there about a particular reformster shenanigans.

When Schools Reopen
This panel of writers is focused on the big issue of the day. When the buildings finally reoppen for good and for real, what could be better?

Wrench in the Gears
Not everybody’s cup of tea, this blog travels way down the global digital data plot, but the research is solid and she often pulls out info you won’t find anywhere else.

VAMboozled
Audrey Amrein-Beardsley is a leading researcher and scholar in the bananas field of VAM. Another blog that rewards deep reading inm the archives.
Published in: on January 28, 2021 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

As a native Washingtonian, I should have representatives in Congress

This was written by another native Washingtonian who now lives in Maine.

A major reason for NOT giving the residents of DC a vote in Congress is, frankly, racism.

====================

Maine Voices: Will Maine’s senators let my mom vote?

Mainers can help bring democracy to our nation’s capital at long last. We must encourage Sens. King and Collins to sign on as co-sponsors of the D.C. statehood bill.

BY CHRIS MYERS ASCH

SPECIAL TO THE PRESS HERALD

6 COMMENTS

My mom is an amazing American. The only child of a Census Bureau statistician and a Jewish social scientist (who fled her native Germany because of the Nazis), she was born and raised in the nation’s capital. She had two children while attending medical school and another (me!) in Laos, where she practiced medicine as my father served in Vietnam. She worked in pediatrics and later in a drug clinic, then spent the last 15 years of her career caring for veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She has lived an extraordinary life of service.

Flags fly at sunset with 51 instead of the usual 50 stars along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., in September 2019, part of a display in support of statehood for the District of Columbia. The people who live in the nation’s capital can vote for president, but in Congress they have only a non-voting delegate and a shadow U.S. senator, neither of whom has full voting rights.  Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Myers Asch teaches history at Colby College and is the author of “Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital.”

But she can’t vote.

My mom and over 700,000 American citizens – 32,000 of whom are veterans – have no voting representatives or senators in Congress because they happen to live in Washington, D.C. That’s right. The people who reside in the capital of the world’s foremost democracy do not actually get to participate fully in that democracy. They can vote for president, but in Congress all they have are a “Non-Voting Delegate” and a “Shadow Senator,” neither of whom has full voting rights.

When I explain this to people in Maine, most of them are appalled. “Really?” they gasp. “That’s ridiculous!” It is ridiculous, but we Mainers are part of the reason that my mom still can’t vote. Why? Because our senators have yet to support D.C. statehood.

Washingtonians originally had the right to vote in congressional elections, but it was stripped away in the Organic Act of 1801, a hastily crafted bill passed in the waning weeks of a lame-duck Federalist Congress. D.C. residents have been fighting for voting representation in Congress ever since.

The movement to make D.C. the 51st state has gained momentum in the months since protests shined a light on America’s enduring racial inequalities. Race historically has been a major reason why D.C., with its large Black population, still does not have full voting rights.Advertisement

The power to create new states rests entirely with Congress. Last summer, with support from Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, the House of Representatives voted 232-180 to turn D.C. into a state, the first D.C. statehood bill ever to pass a house of Congress. The bill is scheduled to be introduced in the Senate on Friday, and we need both Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins to get on board as well.

Many objections to D.C. statehood are inaccurate and downright insulting. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been told, “No one is actually from D.C.,” as if people like my family don’t exist. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton opposes statehood because D.C. has too many “bureaucrats and white-collar professionals,” as if voting rights should depend on our jobs.

But there is some sincere skepticism about adding a new state for the first time in a half century. Some critics claim that we must amend the Constitution if we want to give Washingtonians the vote. That is simply not true. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution specifies that the seat of the federal government must reside in an independent “District” not controlled by any state. This federal district cannot exceed 10 square miles, but the Constitution does notspecify its minimum size.

RELATED

Read Thursday’s Maine Voices: Soaring on ‘wings like eagles’ as we confront climate crisis

To meet constitutional muster, the statehood bill shrinks the federal district down to the National Mall, the White House and the Capitol complex in downtown Washington. Everything else would become the 51st  state.

Other critics say that D.C. is “too small” to become a state. Though it would be the smallest state in terms of acreage, D.C. has a larger population than Wyoming or Vermont and likely will pass Alaska in the next decade. Washingtonians have the highest per capita tax rate in the country and pay more in federal taxes than 22 states.

But, skeptics may ask, isn’t D.C. just “an appendage of the federal government,” as Sen. Cotton claimed? Hardly. D.C. receives less than 30 percent of its budget from Congress, a lower percentage than five states and on a par with three others. The federal government owns about 30 percent of the land in D.C., compared to more than 50 percent of Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Utah and almost 85 percent of Nevada. Should we strip those Westerners of representation?

Mainers can help bring democracy to our nation’s capital at long last. We must encourage Sens. King and Collins to sign on as co-sponsors of the D.C. statehood bill. After what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6, we need to reaffirm our nation’s commitment to full democracy for all.

My mom deserves the right to vote, not because she has spent decades serving our country, but simply because she is an American. In this country, our people vote. Let’s hope Maine’s senators agree.

Published in: on January 22, 2021 at 9:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,
%d bloggers like this: