Let’s really do something to serve children of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities in D.C

Yesterday, WTOP’s Abigail Constantino reported that At-Large D.C. Councilmember Robert White called for a special council committee to study how the city’s public schools can better serve students in the District of Columbia. According to Ms. Constantino, Mr. White remarked:

“Now a decade-and-a-half later, the promises that were made in terms of performance and outcomes for our students just haven’t been met. Today, under 30% of Black students are on grade level … compared to roughly 85% of white students.”

In her article Ms. Constantino stated that “after 14 years of mayoral control, At-Large D.C. Council member Robert White said the city’s public schools aren’t working for students of color, English language learners and students with disabilities.”

Mr. White continued:

“I want the council to take this into our own hands, with the urgency and importance that this issue deserves and actually do something, instead of requesting a study or recommendations from outside the council that will just go on a shelf.”

Urgency on providing quality schools for our scholars is something I have been calling for now for over a decade. No one seems to be listening. I do have one problem with the representative’s recommendation. A six month study is not what we need.

We know the answer. The solution is found in the 68 campuses of the city’s network of charter schools. In these facilities kids from all backgrounds receive what is essentially a private school education for free. While the pandemic has prevented us from visiting these schools right now, once they reopen we will once again travel into spaces where teaching looks extremely different from the offerings of DCPS.

Mr. White added:

“We’ll listen to parents; we’ll listen to students; we will look at governance structures in other jurisdictions.”

There are no other jurisdictions we need to look at except what is taking place in our own backyard. All Mr. White needs to do is take a tour of Washington Latin PCS, for example, which is located near his home in Ward 4.

Let’s not waste another minute. While students are learning remotely the adults in charge of DCPS need to take action. Let’s rid ourselves of the current system and institute charters for all.

Mr. White seems to agree with me. He advised, “At this time, when we are talking about racial justice and talking about equity, we have to take the hard steps forward of doing something about it.”

Yes, it will be hard. It will be a fight. The teachers’ unions will put up the struggle of a lifetime. But this is not the moment to tinker around the edges, to make incremental changes, to hope that somehow everything will turn out all right for our kids.

Hope is not a strategy. Only action matters. A decade from now we do not want our children talking about this moment in history and saying our generation did nothing to turn the situation around regarding our traditional public schools.

Please look yourself in the mirror this morning and decide that today is the day to fix our education in Washington, D.C.

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