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.

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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.

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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  
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Gutting All DC High School Graduation Requirements

The question of exactly what it takes to earn a high school diploma in the District of Columbia, or anywhere else, is of course one for which one answer won’t satisfy everybody. Which is why whenever such requirements are set, they need to be widely debated so that the very worst ideas can at least be eliminated.

My former colleague Erich Martel has brought to my attention what seems to be a ‘stealth’ attempt to completely gut the DC HS graduation requirements, and perhaps to turn them all over to whoever it is that sells easily-defrauded online courses. I am reprinting his entire letter for your edification. Please read, and take some action. Letters and emails definitely help!

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[To] Ms. Wilson-Phelan and Mr. Batchelor,

cc: GRTF members, SBOE members, teachers; concerned community

 [From: Erich Martel}

I read your draft proposal for changing DC graduation requirements (http://tinyurl.com/ybm63tr5) which you submitted to the Graduation Requirements Task Force (GRTF) and was shocked. I then read the minutes of the meetings posted on the SBOE website, but saw no such recommendation.

Your proposal to remove all specifically named courses from the list of math (except Algebra I), science, social studies and English credit requirements for a DC high school diploma (these courses all have standards that the State Board adopted) would be a radical change that could lead to each LEA picking a random topics from each subject area, most likely taught online and assessed by online tests, approved by OSSE.  Has OSSE conducted any graduation compliance audits? That would give greater control over grades to LEA administrators and replace teachers with bots.

 

Coming right on the heels of your (Ms. Wilson-Phelan’s) vigorous promotion of competency-based education (replacing teachers with online programmed instruction), this new effort to radically rewrite the graduation requirements needs to be supported by facts and evidence:

A)  Clear descriptions (identified by sources or authors) of the obstacles or problems that each of the current requirements pose (e.g. if students are failing U.S. history or Geometry, GRTF members – and the public – need to know why.  You can’t solve a problem, if you don’t know why it’s a problem); and

B) Clear descriptions of how your proposed replacements will address the specific reasons that explain why students are failing each course

 

To that end, I make the following requests, which I hope all GRTF members will consider necessary in order to make informed decisions (the minutes show that several members have asked for evidence):

1. Can you provide evidence that each DCPS and DC charter high school requires every student to pass all 24.0 credits that the current DC graduation requirements specify?

In 2013, Mr. Hense, the founder and CEO of the Friendship charter schools, in testimony before the SBOE, submitted redacted transcripts from 3 Friendship Collegiate 2011 graduates as evidence of their achievement.  Two did not have U.S. History (the third took it at a previous school); three did not have the 2nd year of world history; all three had 9 or 10 courses whose credit values were inflated.     

 

2. How many students in each DCPS and charter high school needed one or more online credit recovery classes to receive the DC high school diploma in 2016 and 2017?

 

3. How many students were failing high school courses needed for graduation, but were certified to graduate in 2016 and 2017, because their teachers were pressured to give passing grades or because administrators changed failing grades to passing grades?

If you cannot get this information, will you ask the members of the SBOE to request an independent audit of all DC and charter high schools, such as the one reported this past week in Prince Georges County, MD?

I encourage you and GRTF and SBOE members to read the following three audits:

a) The newly released (10/31/2017) 211pp auditor’s report of the Prince Georges County PS investigation into allegations of grade changes, ineligible diploma awards, etc. in 20 of the 26 high schools:https://www.scribd.com/document/363400267/Report-finds-problems-with-Prince-George-s-Co-HS-graduation-rates#from_embed

 

b) Links to the two investigation reports that resulted from my discovery of altered grades and ineligible graduates at Wilson HS in 2002 and 2006. The first by contractor, Gardiner, Kamya & Assoc.; the second by the DC Inspector General:

 http://nonpartisaneducation.org/DCdocuments.htm

 

4. What is the source of your draft proposals?

 Please list the names and professional associations of any and all individuals, including registered lobbyists, DC OSSE officials or staff, education policy associations, DCPS officials, DC Public Charter School Board members and staff, DC charter operators, staff or board members, etc., who may have been in contact with you for the purpose of changing the graduation requirements that you are proposing. 

Since your proposal would lead to contracts with vendors of educational technology, online user licenses, etc., all of questionable educational value, it is important that GRTF members and the public know all of the details behind this unusual proposal.

 

I look forward to your reply.

 

Sincerely,

Erich Martel

Retired DCPS high school teacher

(1969-2011: Cardozo HS, Wilson HS, Phelps ACE HS)

ehmartel@starpower.net

 

 

 

https://sboe.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/sboe/publication/attachments/%23DCGradReqs%20Meeting%207%20DRAFT%20Graduation%20Purpose%20and%20Examples.pdf

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