Greater Greater Washington

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Let's Choose among at-large candidates on education

In light of the debates swirling around the District around education this week in particular, Let's Choose DC (a partnership of Greater Greater Washington, DCist, and PoPville) asked the at-large candidates about their vision for education:


Photo by aariops on Flickr.
DC's education system has improved in recent years for many kids, but many schools remain inadequate to our children's needs. If you could design a better school system for DC, what would it look like? Would we have more teacher evaluations or fewer? More charter schools, fewer, or different ones? More or fewer kids going to local schools? How else would your school system differ structurally from the one we have today?
Seven candidates responded: Diallo Brooks, Matthew Frumin, Patrick Mara, Perry Redd, Pedro Rubio, John Settles, and Elissa Silverman. Since last week, AJ Cooper has dropped out. Anita Bonds and Michael Brown did not respond for the third week in a row.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Are charter schools not local?

by Tim Krepp on Jan 22, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

Tim: I see that it could be unclear, but "more or fewer kids going to local schools" was meant to be "schools within walking distance" or something like that. It wasn't supposed to be a juxtaposition with charter schools.

There are 3 different axes, so to speak:
- Teacher evaluations: more or less?
- Charters: more or less?
- Schools near where the kid lives: More or less?

Only one of those is about charters. The first one is not about charters, and the 3rd could be about charters (neighborhood preference) or DCPS (should there be a lot of schools nearby people's houses?)

Patrick Mara also felt the question leaned toward being about charters, so maybe we could have phrased it more clearly. But it wasn't supposed to be more than 1/3 about charters.

by David Alpert on Jan 22, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

Gotcha, I think that makes more sense. The charter debate is real and people are interested in it. Walkability to schools is also important (dare I say critical for younger kids). The Venn diagram on the two debates does overlap a bit, but they are fundamentally different arguments.

And the first argument could be about charters! You see, one feature of charters is that you can pick a school that hires teachers without the focus on a standardized evaluation that doesn't match what you feel is important as a parent. So, if you put your mind to it, you can make ANY education debate about charters!

by Tim Krepp on Jan 22, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

Kind of surprised by Mara's answer- given his credentials, I was anticipating a response that even if I didn't agree with it would've at least been informative and well-reasoned. Instead he was my outlier as the sole person who didn't even come close to answer the question; was just politicking. I didn't agree too much with most others, but at least they dabbled in answers a bit here & there (don't think I gave anyone credit for *fully* answering the questions, though).

by Bossi on Jan 22, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

I'm with Bossi on Mara's answer. I expected a strong answer, but all he really said is that he cares the most, so voters should choose him. Frankly, I was put off with his dismissive attitude that he can't explain how to fix DC schools in 500 words. He doesn't have to boil it all down to 500 words, but that is enough space to outline a vision, policies, views on the role of the Council, etc. He didn't need a treatise, but a summary of his points. What does Mara say if a voter asks him about education? That he doesn't have enough time to explain his position? How does he pitch himself to donors? How will he answer at forums?

I understand his point that education is a tough issue, but I was put off that he didn't even attempt to answer. I'm a Democrat who might support Mara, but this answer makes me think again.

by Jamie Scott on Jan 22, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

@Bossi, I agree. I agree with Pat Mara in general in that I think "charters vs. public schools" is an overworn, distracting trope that inhibits real reform in DC. But then again, so is bringing up Michelle Rhee, which he did at great length.

by Tim Krepp on Jan 22, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

I too was surprised that anyone would talk about Rhee reforms at this point, given everything we now know. I was also expecting a stronger answer from Mara. After all, he is on the school board.

by William on Jan 22, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

I too think Mara's response was vapid, but I wouldn't say he brought up Rhee "at great length," there's one paragraph that mentions her name twice.

I too was surprised that anyone would talk about Rhee reforms at this point, given everything we now know.
I'm not sure why it wouldn't be mentioned given that DCPS continues to operate under her model.

I was disappointed that only one candidate made the suggestion that there should be real, coordinated cooperation between DCPS and DC social service agencies.

by MLD on Jan 22, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

Why are people surprised by Mara's answer? It's the same approach he's taken whenever he's run for office so his responses are consistent IMO. He didn't bring up Rhee's name too much even though he shouldn't mentioned her at all. I assume, like the others, he wanted to provide a few buzzwords, "Rhee, Charter innovation" etc to appeal to a specific group. We could've written his responses as well.

Elissa's response was decent..but didn't answer the question and doesn't seem to account for the current "Chancellor" structure of DCPS that wouldn't allow us to go back to the times she mentioned in her response. Responding to specific questions with specific questions shouldn't cut it. I mean asking why Henderson fired the food director? Hunh?

FWIW, if you look at how Settles, Frumin and Brooks responded, they at least went into depth about the subject rather than the usual hitting one or two high notes. I prefer these sorts of responses rather than, "I'm not Pepsi, I'm not Coke, what I do want is your vote" sorta replies.

Once again though, this is AWESOME!

by HogWash on Jan 22, 2013 3:09 pm • linkreport

Wasn't Silvermann a lobbyist?

by HogWash on Jan 22, 2013 3:25 pm • linkreport

Wasn't [Silverman] a lobbyist?

She was a reporter for the City Paper and the Post, and recently has been working for the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. Not sure if you count them as "lobbyists" or not. I don't think she was a registered lobbyist.

by MLD on Jan 22, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

The DCFPI lobbies the city council, and I understand Silverman is just on leave. She didn't resign her post (though that doesn't mean anything).

by William on Jan 22, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

@David (or anyone else who knows)--how many responses are you getting for each candidate/question? The graph showing proportion of people who marked an answer persuasive is cool, but I'd like to know n values. Did some candidates get way more votes than others? How many people are participating in this? Etc.

by ALS on Jan 22, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

Silverman and Settles both seem to have pretty consistent grasp of the issues and pretty concrete responses.

by Alan B. on Jan 22, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

Silverman advocated for "budget" policies that she believed were in the best interest of the city. I guess it's more appropriate to consider her a nonregistered lobbyist. Keep in mind, I don't have a big issue w/her work but her work certainly makes her more of a lobbyist than the oft-mentioned Vincent Gray.

Silverman and Settles both seem to have pretty consistent grasp of the issues and pretty concrete responses.

Interesting. How did you feel about her responses to the actual questions?

by HogWash on Jan 22, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

Vincent Orange

by HogWash on Jan 22, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

I'm confused by HogWash's latest post.

Also, why aren't Bonds and Brown participating? I would have thought that Brown would want to flex his progressive bonafides with those reading here.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jan 22, 2013 5:22 pm • linkreport

Tomorrow is the deadline for submitting signatures to be on the ballot. According to the DCBOEE website, so far only Mara, Frumin and Redd have filed. I'm going to put two and two together and say that anyone who didn't respond to this question is unlikely to have gathered the necessary 3,000 signatures and is out of the race as of tomorrow.

by contrarian on Jan 22, 2013 5:57 pm • linkreport

Zuckerberg and Gann filed last week from my recollection.

by William on Jan 22, 2013 6:24 pm • linkreport

It's not impossible, but I'd be a little surprised if Bonds didn't get the signatures - she has the party machinery behind her. Brown also has a lot of campaign volunteers lined up from his multiple runs, but he did wait until the start of this month to jump in, so he was limited. And there has already been a challenge to some of his petition circulators.

by David Alpert on Jan 22, 2013 6:24 pm • linkreport

I'm confused by HogWash's latest post.

Hopefully someone can post an answer resolving whatever the confusion you have about his post.

by HogWash on Jan 22, 2013 6:31 pm • linkreport

Gan has apparently dropped out as well.

by William on Jan 23, 2013 9:38 am • linkreport

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