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D.C.'s Future--Beyond Rhee

A lot of recent media attention has focused on whether D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee will stay or go following the primary election defeat of her boss, Mayor Adrian Fenty. But the mayoral election isn't the only one that matters for education in D.C. Come January, D.C. will also have a new City Council Chairman. Soon-to-be Mayor Vince Gray was has been an excellent Chairman. But I have yet to talk to anyone who has a clear sense of where soon-to-be chairman Kwame Brown is likely to come down on key ed reform issues--although he has tended to be pretty supportive of charter schools.

As Dave Weigel writes in this week's City Paper, the November Congressional election could also have big implications for D.C., because D.C.'s unique status gives Congress significant oversight (or what one might call meddling) authority over D.C., and the Republicans who could control Congress come January have very different views than current Democratic leaders on D.C. issues. In particular, look for a renewed push on D.C. vouchers if Republicans take control in November--and that could put President Obama in a tough position.

Weigel's profile of Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who in a Republican Congress would likely chair the subcommittee that oversees D.C., is a must-read for anyone interested in D.C. issues. One thing I just find odd is the juxtaposition of Chaffetz' support for D.C. vouchers and his proposals to retrocede most of the residential areas in the District to Maryland. Say want you want about the merits of the plan (or lack thereof), merging D.C., which has one of the nation's most robust charter sectors, with Maryland, which has a notoriously weak charter law, would ultimately undermine public school choice options for D.C. kids. Even now, lots of D.C. charter schools have problems with families from neighboring Prince George's County, Maryland, trying to sneak their kids into D.C. charters, because of the lack of options in Maryland (note: this is illegal and something the PCSB actively works to monitor and stop). There are lots of things that need to get better about charter schools in D.C., but I'm thankful for the fact that District residents at least have options (and a growing number of good ones!), which many of our neighbors in other jurisdictions do not.

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