D.C. Democrats for Education Reform apologizes for campaign mailers

At the end of May, the Washington City Paper’s Mitch Ryals identified serious problems with the accuracy of campaign literature distributed by the D.C. Democrats for Education Reform, a pro-charter school organization. The pieces attacked Janeese Lewis George, who successfully challenged DFER’s endorsed candidate incumbent Brandon Todd in Ward 4, and Brooke Pinto, who won her Ward 2 contest against Patrick Kennedy, who was also favored by the education group.

The criticism of Ms. George has proved to be especially problematic in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd. The flyers stated, according to Mr. Ryals, “Janeese Lewis George bragged: ‘I will divest from MPD!'” . . . “That’s politician-speak for cutting police officers in Ward 4!” The City Paper reporter quotes another piece as stating, “Our police officers have dedicated their lives to keeping Ward 4 families safe. But Janeese Lewis George calls them ‘one of the greatest dangers to the future of urban life.'”

Here is how Mr. Ryals explains the positions of Ms. George regarding the police and law enforcement:

“The first quote about divesting from the police department originates from an October 2019 tweet, which initially left little room for ambiguity (she punctuated the tweet with a ‘full stop.’)

George clarified in a follow-up tweet that she ‘would redirect some of the $550 million in funding that is currently allocated for policing toward violence prevention and violence interruption programs…’

George tells LL [Loose Lips] she doesn’t want to reduce the police force, but she is in favor of using a part of its budget to fund public health approaches to address crime—violence interrupters or putting more social workers in schools.

‘It’s about how we’re using our officers that is the problem,’ she says. ‘Officers sitting in cars is not effective. That’s a leadership problem. I’m not blaming the officers. I’m looking to leadership and asking ‘What are you doing to reduce crime?'”

In other words, Ms. George’s positions are consistent with the defund the police movement that is now sweeping the country.

A couple of days ago, DFER apologized for their literature:

“During this election season, DFER-DC endorsed Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd, a champion for education reforms that have helped make D.C. the fastest improving urban school district in the country and have better prepared Black and Brown children for college, career, and life. In furtherance of this, DFER-DC distributed mailers to Ward 4 voters informing them of Janeese Lewis George’s position on divesting resources from traditional police programs, a position that polling showed Ward 4 voters opposed. These mailers oversimplified a more nuanced conversation about public safety without calling out the problematic history of policing Black people, causing misunderstanding and pain on an issue vitally important to the students and families DFER-DC serves. We have taken the time to reflect on the implications of these mailers: We made a mistake, and we have learned from it.”

The director of DFER-DC originally explained the thinking behind the release of the flyers to the City Paper this way:

“Ramin Taheri, director of DFER-DC, says the organization crafted its mailers based on poll data. In Ward 4, for example, 68 percent of the 303 registered Democrats polled say they are less likely to vote for someone who wants to cut police officers from the force, according to a memo Taheri shared with LL.”

Ms. George opined to Mr. Ryals that the literature was meant to spread fear. Now, it appears that the flyers were as inappropriate as they were at the time they were distributed.