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DeMorning DeBonis: Oct. 4, 2010


The national what-now-for-D.C.-school-reform media blitz continued this weekend, led by a New York Times Magazine piece from Judith Warner: "[P]eople -- even people who seemed destined to most benefit from the work of a committed reformer like [Michelle Rhee] -- don't like to get the message that their communities are on the wrong track. That their schools are no good, the teachers in them subpar; that their decision to back a politician who doesn't share the reformer's particular style of quasi-missionary zeal would consign their kids to disaster. ... They like policy makers who at least appear to be taking their concerns to heart, as Rhee pointedly did not." Warner moves on to aptly describe the District's unique sensitivity to paternalism and finishes with this now well-worn comparison: "The Tea Party candidates who surprised national observers and the Republican establishment by winning this month couldn't be more different than the thoughtful, mildĀ­mannered [Vincent Gray], his liberal sympathies as deep as his Washington roots. The voters who elected him, it is fair to say, have nothing politically in common with those who brought [Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell] her upset victory. But it may well be that the sort of rage that fuels the mostly white, middle-class, conservative Tea Party movement has, at least in part, a similar root: a rejection of whip-smart policy makers who believe they know best and who -- it seems to those who feel slighted by them -- lack the common decency to try not to show it."

AFTER THE JUMP -- Post editorial says Rhee's reforms aren't racist -- Cheh says old principal shouldn't return to Hardy Middle School -- the 'Rhee-formers' look for a sign from Gray -- millionaires' tax back on the table


BACK ATCHA COURTLAND -- "Is there racism in Washington's school reform?" asks the Post's editorial board -- in what pretty clearly a retort to columnist Courtland Milloy. "[A]ny suggestion that Ms. Rhee lacks either passion for or interest in raising the achievement levels of black students -- along with those of white, Latino and special-education pupils -- is a slander. The charge seriously misreads the past three years and 10 months and how Ms. Rhee has worked to fix a system that was notorious for its inability to provide textbooks to students, much less educate them. ... Has Ms. Rhee sought to attract support and participation from the middle class, both white and black, while also meeting the needs of poor children? We would certainly hope so. Economic diversity makes for a healthy school system, and families that pay the bulk of taxes that support the school system should be welcomed. Instead of being faulted for wooing new parents to the schools, Ms. Rhee should be applauded for helping rebuild confidence in the system; for the first time in decades, school enrollment has increased this year."

ALSO -- The editorial names Hardy Middle School as the prime example of a tough Rhee decision benefiting black students. Over the weekend, Gray supporter Mary Cheh told the Georgetown Dish that she would oppose reinstating old principal Patrick Pope -- which Gray is expected to do -- saying, "Going back would send the wrong signal." And Bill Turque notes that Rhee's living-room meetings with parents are "few but far-flung," distributed across the city. But: "The question of who does and does not have the chancellor's ear is a far more complex matter than tallying up a list of meetings, whether they're held in school cafeterias or living rooms."

GRAY PESSIMISM -- Terry Lynch, community activist and Fenty adviser, has a message at All Opinions Are Local for those hoping that Gray will be an education reformer: "Please wake up and smell the coffee. Urgent public education reform is done for in the District. The American Federation of Teachers didn't pour money into a local race for nothing. ... The chances of the Gray administration removing administrators and teachers for poor performance are, frankly, quite low. Evaluation and performance tools developed under Rhee will probably be revamped, with effective, timely implementation delayed interminably with reviews, appeals and bureaucratic hurdles. The old games of transferring personnel, shuffling them between schools and classrooms will likely come back in style. I hope I am wrong. We will very soon see."

WHITHER THE 'RHEE-FORMERS'? -- Turque writes at D.C. Schools Insider that with DCPS leadership still uncertain, Gray risks a "brain drain" as top Rhee aides are lured to other jobs. "Some, particularly at the deputy chancellor and chief of staff level, will almost certainly follow [Rhee] out the door at some point. A few are already getting job feelers. ... But others might stay if they were reassured by Gray or his surrogates that he was serious about preserving and growing the core of Rhee's program, especially in the areas of human capital and school turnaround. They wonder, for example, if come next summer, Gray is actually prepared to accept the dismissal of potentially hundreds of 'minimally effective' teachers who have been given the current school year to improve or be fired under the IMPACT evaluation system. Others would like a signal that Gray is leaning toward a new chancellor who is more in the reformist mold, and less of a conventional choice. In other words, as the staffer said, 'not Cliff Janey.'"

TIME FOR A SOAK? -- The millionaires' tax is back on the table, proffered by usual suspects Jim Graham and Michael A. Brown to close the $175 million budget gap. Writes Freeman Klopott in Examiner: "Graham plans to roll out nearly the same legislation that failed to win the council's support last spring. The highest income tax rate in the District is 8.5 percent on residents whose annual income is $40,000 or more. Graham said his legislation would increase the rate to 8.9 percent for people whose taxable income is $1 million each year. ... Brown's version of the income tax increase last spring would have created two tiers, taxing residents who annually earn $250,000 or more at 8.9 percent, and those who earn $1 million or more at 9.4 percent. ... Both councilmen said they'd work together on the legislation, but they're likely to bump into conflict: Brown says he's willing to put an end date on his tax rate increase, something Graham strongly opposes." And they'll have to do an end-around to avoid Jack Evans, who says he "won't move it forward." Also: Klopott also notices that Gray has been acting more mayoral lately.

MISSING MONEY -- Jonetta Rose Barras writes in Examiner that Gray needs to "signal he's serious" about closing the $175 million budget gap: "He could start by developing a plan to collect millions of tax dollars from organizations and private companies the city forgoes because of federal or local legislation. ... More than 68 railroad properties valued at $295 million are exempt from local taxes because of federal law. Therefore, the District misses out on more than $5 million in taxes. The Smithsonian Institution sells a variety of items at shops in its museums. The District is unable to collect taxes from those transactions. Similar organizations have entered into voluntary tax agreements with the city, but the Smithsonian has resisted the CFO's entreaties. It's bad enough when the federal government puts resources out of reach -- but the local legislature has been complicit, too. At nearly every session, approval is given for an exemption or abatement. Those exemptions add up."

INCIDENTALLY -- The District's residential property taxes "are among the lowest in the nation," Jeff Clabaugh writes in WBJ off a Tax Foundation report -- that's when taxes are measured as a percentage of property value against the 50 states. "In the District, the property tax rate as a percentage of home value is 0.46 percent, which would rank D.C. number 47 if it were ranked with states. The national average is 3.03 percent. The median property tax bill in D.C. in 2009 was $2,057, ranked 20th based on dollar amount."

OTHER VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE -- Colby King profiles Kenny Barnes and ROOT Inc., and its work in the Cedar Heights apartment complex in Anacostia. "Barnes says his organization's intervention in Cedar Heights has nearly eradicated gun violence in the complex. But, he told me this week, one thing in Cedar Heights that hasn't gone away is the trauma that results from violence. With a grant from the city's Office of Victim Services, ROOT Inc. reviewed the violence-related experiences of 29 Cedar Heights youths involved with its programs; 21 were male; eight were female. They ranged in age from 12 to 21. ROOT's findings should concentrate the minds of everyone who reads about a local homicide and then casually turns the page or clicks away. Even when there are no longer bodies on the ground, scars from violence remain. ... Barnes said the impact of violence on youth is significant but is, for the most part, ignored. Attention focuses on homicide victims and the perpetrators, he said, and people have little regard left over for those who survive the shootings and assaults. Yet they, too, are damaged by violence."

OH BOY -- Today in pundit fever dreams: Jeremy Lott writes at Daily Caller that Gray is a "free-spending throwback to uglier times" who "rode a wave of black resentment against [Adrian Fenty]'s supposed kowtowing to white interests" and "would move to gut Fenty's education reforms as a sop to the DC teachers' union." And the savior is none other than Barack Obama: "[I]magine what could happen if Obama audaciously inserted himself into the race, if he announced next week that he would be changing his voter registration to DC and writing in Adrian Fenty on November 2. It would turn heads at the very least. And if he manages to cobble together a broad coalition of concerned citizens who don't want to see DC circle the drain again, so much the better."


The previously winless Coolidge football team beat still winless Anacostia, giving coach Natalie Randolph her first win; Dave McKenna deemed the tilt the "Michelle Rhee Bowl" (Post, City Desk)

Martin Austermuhle asks: Could charter-school-loving Vince Gray be "Superman" after all? (DCist)

Another federal judge rejects Peter Nickles' easy-out strategy for a major class action (D.C. Schools Insider)

PERB examiner rules that Cathy Lanier et al. illegally retaliated against FOP officials (Crime Scene, Examiner)

What Adrian Fenty and fired Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov have in common -- "They both alienated their most important constituents" (NewsHour)

Herb Miller has been ousted from the Georgetown Park mall redevelopment deal (Current via Housing Complex)

Rhee met with Mark Zuckerberg about philanthropy, arranged by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (New York Times)

La Casa shelter on Irving Street NW will close to make way for Donatelli-built apartments; DHS scrambles to place about 50 residents before hypothermia season (Post, Housing Complex)

DUI lawyer wants independent probe of Breathalyzer findings (WTTG-TV, WRC-TV)

"Waiting for Superman" director Davis Guggenheim: "I know better than to discuss city politics, but I spent a lot of time in D.C. schools and I saw firsthand the effects she had on these schools. It's transformative." City Paper)

Fifth-graders' test scores drop at KIPP charters amid expansion effort, Jay Mathews writes (Post)

Reuben Charles' kinds-sorta-not-really connection to John Ashcroft (Loose Lips)

A heartbreaking story from Jamal Coates' onetime mentor (Post)

Did Robert Bobb have Detroit superintendent's office bugged? (Detroit Free Press)

"Is the Government Trying to Weasel Out of Paying Water Taxes?" (Infrastructurist)

No more cash accepted at city library branches (TBD)

Arson suspected in deadly Mount Pleasant fire; investigators have several "persons of interest" (Post, WTOP)

Mother of toddler who died during February snowstorm filed wrongful death suit, alleging FEMS malpractice (WTTG-TV)

Former DYRS employee pleads guilty to unemployment fraud (Examiner)

One fewer Michael Brown to kick around (

DCRA shuts down GWU coffee cart (Hatchet)

Dust off that Fenty 2006 human services transition report! (Susie's Budget and Policy Corner)

Bedbugs found across the alley from the Wilson Building (WTOP)

*** ON THE MENU ***

Pre-legislative meeting press conference, 10 a.m. in JAWB 412 -- council delivers post-OCTOgate report, 10:15 a.m. in council chambers

By Mike DeBonis  | October 4, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike, The District  
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Cheh is out of touch on the Hardy issue. Principal Pope was replaced with four, count em, four people all earning over 100K. The school has cut a custodian, a lunch person and the librarian back to half time. Students still do not have corrected schedules, after weeks of visits etc. my 8th grade daughter was taken out of 6th grade classes, finally, yesterday. I think having a principal share schools then supplementing them with three people makes no fiscal sense whatsoever. Finally, the removal of Pope was a political maneuver to appease Fenty supporters whose children were not even at the school but at a feeder grade school. Unlike your paper said, the high enrollment is not due to the change in principals but in standards and the fact when they realized that neighborhood enrollment was not happening the doors were thrown open. Behavior problesms (such as mooning a teacher) which would never had happened in the past are now happening, the school is dirty and some of the arts programs have taken a hit. While I personally like principal Nurenberg, I think she has been set up for failure. It annoys me when people like Cheh, who have no kids in any school, opinions are given such gravitas simply because she is an elected official.

Posted by: DeniseW | October 5, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

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