DeMorning DeBonis: Oct. 7, 2010
TODAY IS OCT. 7, 2010 -- 26 DAYS UNTIL GENERAL ELECTION
Start your day with Bob McCartney's fabulous column on a successful school reformer who's improved test scores, raised enrollment, and recently negotiated a breakthrough contract with tough teachers union honcho Randi Weingarten. In Baltimore. "There," Bob writes, "schools chief Andres Alonso has achieved substantial educational progress through ambitious reform efforts similar to [Michelle Rhee]'s - but without alienating teachers and parents in the process. ... The success in Baltimore is important partly because it forces us to think differently about what's special about Rhee, just as she's probably on her way out of office after the landslide election loss of her patron, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty." There are differences in the circumstances to be sure: Baltimore doesn't have mayoral control, but rather a good old-fashioned school board. The Baltimore contract is not quite so far-reaching as D.C.'s and was pushed along by Race to the Top mandates. But also, and perhaps more to the point, Alonso hasn't graced the cover of Time, appeared on Oprah's couch or been a fixture at high-powered Sun Valley and Aspen Institute confabs. Writes Bob: "Our neighbors to the north are on to something. Fixing city schools doesn't have to be black and white. And I can't resist pointing out that the next man overseeing the task in the District is named Gray."
AFTER THE JUMP -- PLA bill will cost $17M a year -- DCPS doesn't want to send smart kids to prep schools -- out-of-District homeless help crowd shelters -- questions about having town halls in public schools -- Rupert Murdoch speaks up for Rhee
*** MAIN COURSE ***
MORE BOB -- "Rhee's many supporters have defended her confrontational approach to school reform by saying it was the only way to break through decades of resistance from entrenched interests, particularly in the teachers unions. ... There's some truth in that argument. In my view, Rhee's most valuable and durable accomplishment has been as a public agitator who blew up complacency. She raised awareness of the urgent need to improve poor city schools and focused attention on the unions' role in creating obstacles to change. However, Baltimore's experience demonstrates that Rhee's tactics aren't the only ones that yield results. In fact, some experts say a more collaborative, low-profile strategy is more successful in the long run because it preserves trust and confidence with teachers and the community. 'What Baltimore shows is that you can bring real change to urban schools without a lot of acrimony,' said Jack Jennings, president of the independent Center on Education Policy. 'The national foundations and some reform groups have made [Rhee] into a poster girl because they just want change, and she's a highly vocal advocate for change. But others have brought about just as much change as she has, and I would guess that their reforms would last longer.'"
PLA PRICE TAG -- CFO Natwar Gandhi has priced the costs of the District Resident Employment Trade Stimulus Act -- aka the "PLA bill" that would essentially mandate union labor on city-subsidized construction projects -- at nearly $17 million. And that, Michael Neibauer writes at WBJ, "the city probably cannot afford." He explains: "The high price tag is almost entirely linked to the bill's provision that a project specific, pre-hire collective bargaining agreement -- known as a Project Labor Agreement, or PLA -- be in place for construction projects receiving $200,000-plus from the government. ... While the projection comes with numerous caveats, Gandhi estimates that contracting costs could increase by 2.4 percent to 4.7 percent for standard construction projects, and 1.9 percent to 3.6 percent for school-related projects." Says bill sponsor Michael A. Brown: "I don't know if my colleagues will have the stomach for $67 million over four years when we're about to do massive cuts." The upshot: "The D.C. Council's goal of putting District residents to work, training unskilled residents for the job market, and requiring union labor on government-subsidized contracts has run headlong into fiscal reality."
THE LIMITS OF SCHOOL CHOICE -- In this week's Loose Lips column, Alan Suderman asks why the D.C. Public Schools aren't cooperating with "Project Match," a nonprofit that aims to send inner-city kids to elite boarding schools. "Wanda Hill, an 83-year-old who started Project Match and ran it for more than 25 years, says she always encountered resistance from unhelpful school officials and had to rely on friendly staff for help identifying possible recruits. Only two middle schools ever really went along with her efforts. ... But on another level, DCPS' silence on Project Match is at odds with how outspoken [Rhee] has been about making decisions based on what's best for a child. Rhee's message is that kids should go to school wherever they can do best -- and that DCPS is ready, willing, and able to compete with other alternatives. ... Project Match's [Yvette Ross] says a high-ranking DCPS official essentially told her that it 'seems odd to take students out of a system we are trying to fix.' ... Hill says school officials were sometimes unwilling to part with some of their brightest students, who bolster test scores and provide role models for other students. That's the flip side to reform efforts that use tests as the linchpin of measuring success; schools aren't particularly interested in losing the smart kids who keep their averages up."
TOWN HALLS -- Gray's use of public schools for his series of town halls has some steamed, Tim Craig reports at D.C. Wire. "Gray campaign advisers have stressed the events are designed to try to woo voters in advance of the November election. At Gray's Ward 5 forum Tuesday night, many of attendees wore 'Gray' stickers. District schools fall under a section of the code stating 'no District resource ... shall be used to support or oppose any candidate for elected office, whether partisan or nonpartisan.' ... Traci Hughes, a Gray spokeswoman, said the campaign decided to hold the events at some schools because, they say, there is 'some wiggle room in the statue.' ... Attorney General Peter Nickles said 'it's common sense' that Gray should not be using schools for political events. 'I don't see how you get around the language of the law,' Nickles said." Also: More coverage of the first town hall, mostly positive, from DCist, GGW, WRC-TV, G'town Dish. See you tonight at St. Columba's.
THE FOREIGN HOMELESS -- Some 10 percent of homeless families receiving emergency shelter in the District are from outside the city, a top human services official tells the D.C. Council. Nikita Stewart reports today: "The District must 'jealously guard those resources for those people who wake up and go to sleep in D.C.,' [DHS Director Clarence H. Carter] said. 'The District does not have the capacity to share its compassion with the region.' ... Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), chairman of the Committee on Human Services, called Wednesday for residency restrictions and relief from surrounding communities that appear to be sending their homeless to the District or are offering lesser services. ... Wells said he is fighting to protect the human services budget as his colleagues scour the city's budget for potential cuts as revenues continue to decline. But Wells said it's hard to argue with complaints that valuable city dollars are going to nonresidents." But Housing Complex notes that screening shelter residents by state of origin is likely unconstitutional. More from the council hearing at Poverty & Policy.
RUPERT HEARTS MICHELLE -- Rupert Murdoch, speaking at a New York awards dinner, says nice things about Michelle Rhee, his Wall Street Journal reports: "Occasionally I hear the leaders of the teachers unions say they support reform. But here I'm of the view of Michelle Rhee, a bona fide reformer. In a recent appearance on 'Meet the Press,' Michelle confronted the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, about how the union reacted when bad teachers were fired. This is how Miss Rhee put it: 'The bottom line is that if these people are ineffective, and if, as President Weingarten says, nobody wants ineffective teachers in the classroom, then you can't fight us every step of the way when we're moving in that direction.'" He added: "Let me be blunt: There's not a single one of us in this room tonight who would allow one of our children to be randomly assigned to a Washington, D.C., public school."
HOW FAR WE'VE COME -- Washingtonian does a Q&A profile of legendary gay activist Frank Kameny: "I've said for many years that San Francisco was looked upon as the center, but DC is very much the success story of the gay movement. ... Things happened to come together that could just as easily not have. And we -- the great collective 'we' -- have worked very hard to make things work out. We've had a generally receptive local government. We got the Human Rights Act in 1973, which I helped draft. The DC police used to be the enemy incarnate; now it has the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit. It was heartwarming to see in the last two gay-pride parades a police-department float enthusiastically cheered by gays, which would have been inconceivable way back."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Charter school enrollment continues to grow, 6 percent this year over last; "market share" is now nearly 40 percent (D.C. Schools Insider)
Are Fenty's campaign workers joining his administration in its waning days? (Loose Lips)
Congress Heights buildings will be used for homeless, not Peaceoholics (Housing Complex)
Will Ward 8 soon see the "Marion S. Barry Employment Center"? (Examiner.com blog)
Another story on the Fenty write-in push; a press conference is set for today (WTTG-TV)
Eleanor Holmes Norton wants D.C. foreclosure moratorium (WTTG-TV)
Will the Humane Society unduly benefit from Cheh's wildlife bill? (Examiner)
More on fat police retirement packages (Examiner)
"I guess Vincent Gray is better than Fenty, but if he starts talking about he's going to go out there and bend over backwards to satisfy the same people who brought Fenty and kept Fenty here, then we're not going to have a change." (Final Call)
Hallelujah: More bike racks in Georgetown (Patch)
Still time to register to vote in the general election(WAMU-FM)
Meet your new D.C. judges (Legal Times)
If you read only one article about a courtroom battle between a high-power law firm and a hamburger shop, make it this one (Young & Hungry)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray town hall No. 2, 6 p.m. at St. Columba's Episcopal Church in Tenleytown -- D.C. Primary Care Association annual meeting all day today at Gallaudet University's Kellogg Conference Center, featuring a performance by Mavis Staples at lunchtime
| October 7, 2010; 9:24 AM ET
Categories: Morning Mike, The District
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