Education Takes Center Stage in DC Elections

Monday was a busy night for education advocates in DC, and it tells us that education will be a huge issue in the upcoming DC elections. At Eastern High School, mayoral candidates including Mayor Vince Gray, Councilmember Tommy Wells, Councilmember Vincent Orange, Councilmember Jack Evans, Andy Shallal, Reta Lewis and Christian Carter, faced off in a forum on education held by the Washington Teachers’ Union. You can read more about the forum in the Washington Post and the Washington City Paper. Meanwhile, at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, Councilmember David Catania, Chair of the DC Council Committee on Education, answered questions at a discussion held by Greater Greater Education, which I attended. Catania recently formed an exploratory committee for mayor, though he has not made a formal decision to run.

Based on the questions from attendees at the Greater Greater Education forum, there are many education issues on community members’ minds heading into the 2014 mayoral election. This Storify by the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization can give you a sense of the discussion. Here were some of the top issues:

  1. School Boundaries and Feeder Patterns: How will DCPS school boundaries and feeder patterns change, and what role will charter schools play? How can we ensure that every child in every neighborhood attends a high quality school where their educational needs are met?

  2. Middle Schools: How can DC increase the pace of improvement in all traditional middle schools by learning and expanding upon successful practices in a few very successful charter and DCPS middle schools?

  3. Parent Engagement and School Culture: What role should parents play in improving their child’s education and supporting schools, and how can school leaders create good learning environments on their campuses?

  4. School Funding: How can we allocate school resources so that at-risk children get the educational support they need? What can community members expect from the FY15 budget process, and how can it be made more transparent?

  5. Pre-K: How can DC improve Pre-K quality and engage parents in the Pre-K process so that every child arrives at Kindergarten ready to learn?

  6. Post-Secondary Education: How can DC improve graduation rates and close gender, race and class achievement gaps in graduation? What resources should DC provide to encourage successful graduation from postsecondary education?

  7. School Leadership: How should DC cultivate and select great school leaders, and how can school leaders better collaborate with one another to foster improvements?

These are all thorny, complex questions that are tough to answer in one blog post (or one community forum), and while DC Action has our own ideas about many of them, we look forward to hearing mayoral and council candidates debate them in the year ahead. What are your priority issues for children in the upcoming elections, and what solutions do you have in mind? What additional questions do you have for DC’s current leaders and candidates?

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