Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Legislators propose


Photo by Frank Kehren on Flickr.
Miller's transportation plan: Maryland's Senate president suggests a new 3% sales tax for gasoline for new roads, regional property taxes for the Purple and Red lines, and possibly leasing the ICC to a private operator. (Post)

Punish parents of truants?: David Catania proposed a bill to consider parents criminally liable if their child is excessively truant. The law aims to cut down on the 3,000 students who miss more than a month of school annually. (Post)

Learn how not to cheat: Kenyan McDuffie wants all candidates for office, as well as their campaign treasurers, to take a mandated course in campaign finance rules. Would such training help to cut down on campaign finance violations? (Examiner)

Words from the mayor for life: Marion Barry shares his impressions on Darrell Issa, Newt Gingrich, and Sharon Pratt Kelly in an interview with the City Paper.

DC leads in transit planning: The Washington area is winning the "Transit Space Race," with 45 projects under construction or in planning. The list includes projects far from completion, such as the NoVa extension to the unbuilt Purple Line. (Streetsblog)

MoCo BRT study funds halved: Montgomery councilmembers approved only half of the $1 million Ike Legett requested to study BRT in the county. Members worried about dedicating too much funding before BRT is actually approved. (Gazette)

Next ride is private?: The founder of NextBus is turning his attention to dynamic ridesharing, saying "transit agencies are obsolete." He hopes people will carry around key fobs that would beep when a car willing to pick you up drives nearby. (Next City)

And...: Two different developers are competing to build major shopping centers near Clarksburg. (Post) ... Mary Cheh proposes making mugshots accessible to the public. (DCist) ... New York has picked a winner of its tiny apartment competition. (UrbanTurf)

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Comments

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I think the transit list is a little disingenuous since so many of the projects on that list are the individual components of DC's streetcar plan. I wouldn't count each separate route that's still in planning as a different project.

by Adam L on Jan 23, 2013 8:45 am • linkreport

I just don't rational behind get the gasoline sales tax.

The reason it is proposed in the first place it because the gas tax is not keeping up with inflation. However, the price of gas fluctuates and does NOT track with inflation.

Adding a 3% tax is the same as adding 10¢/gal tax, at current prices. The problem is, when the price increases to $4/gal, that tax increases to 12¢/gal, hitting people already smarting from this increase that much harder. They drive even less, putting less wear and tear on the roads, and the state gets a tax windfall: good road maintenance, with nobody on them. On the other hand, when the price falls to $2/gal, the tax falls to 6¢/gal, and people have accordingly more money in their pocket. They drive more, and the state is short on tax receipts: lousy road maintenance, with bad congestion.

Road project are planned years in advance, and need reliable funding. However the price of fuel is too volatile to support this.

Just raise the tax 10¢/gal. If inflation is a problem, adjust the tax once a year by the consumer price index.

by goldfish on Jan 23, 2013 9:10 am • linkreport

So McDuffie thinks that our elected officials routinely disregard campaign finance rules, election laws, and basic ethics because they don't know they're doing something wrong?

That's cute. Really.

I wonder if he still believes in the Tooth Fairy, too.

by dcd on Jan 23, 2013 9:17 am • linkreport

@Goldfish: Other goods in Maryland are subject to a 6% sales tax, so Senator Miller's proposal is merely reducing the existing exemption.

If the price of gasoline goes from $4 to $2, you are correct that less gas will be sold so there will be less tax receipts from gasoline. Most people will spend the money they save on gasoline, to buy other products that are also subject to the sales tax. If people merely spend half the savings on goods subject to the sales tax (e.g. restaurant meals), the sales tax revenues will stay the same, rather than decline. Conversely, today when the price of gasoline goes up, sales tax revenue declines as people spend less on (e.g.) restaurants because they have to spend that money on gasoline.

by JimT on Jan 23, 2013 9:18 am • linkreport

Correction: I meant that "less money will be spent on gasoline" not that fewer gallons will be sold, when the price goes from $4 to $2.

by JimT on Jan 23, 2013 9:20 am • linkreport

Re: next bus founders views on the future.

Well, beyond the fact that even me as a healthy mid-20's male would have trepidation stepping into a strangers car (hence the reason I don't hitchhike either) there is still a capacity issue. Even if you could max out all the seats in every car you still need a lot of cars to match the capacity of even a bus, to say nothing of a streetcar or metro train.

I don't see how his vision is particularly great for many of America's downtowns.

by drumz on Jan 23, 2013 9:31 am • linkreport

Punish parents of truants
Mary Cheh proposes making mugshots accessible to the public.

Ah, more proof of DINOs in the City Council.

While I generally support holding parents liable for their minors, this legislation would predominantly punish people that need help. I see no reason why you would release mug shots of people not convicted. Innocent until convicted, remember. These sound like Tea Party proposals, not democratic ones.

by Jasper on Jan 23, 2013 9:37 am • linkreport

I understand where he is coming from, but I don't see how mandatory prosecution of parents whose kids are truant will really help. My guess is most of those families are dealing with significant issues already or they wouldnt be letting the kids skip school. How about mandatory social services check ups after so many absences? I mean I used to routinely miss 5-10 days of school a year through a combination of sick days and vacations and occasional laziness. I really, really dislike the idea of using criminal charges as leverage. It creates a hostile rather than cooperative relationship.

by Alan B. on Jan 23, 2013 9:37 am • linkreport

Exactly my thoughts drumz, the guy is clearly just trying to get some PR for an interesting but not really revolutionary idea. Anyway he's behind the times, there is already a project in the works to create formalized "slugging" programs in the DC area, but it's only been rolled out with DoD staff so far I think.

by Alan B. on Jan 23, 2013 9:39 am • linkreport

@Alan B, the measure would call for CFSA notification after 10 absences. The 20 absence benchmark would be after that failed then.

I assume it means unexcused absences, so sick days wouldn't count. However family vacations would, as they are generally unexcused, to my and many families' frustration. DCPS calendar in incoherent and frustrating enough, attempting to schedule around it is very difficult. It would be nice if this proposal made a distinction between, say a parent of a kindergartner pulling a child out for a family trip and a 15 year old chronically skipping school.

by Tim Krepp on Jan 23, 2013 10:14 am • linkreport

@ Tim Krepp: It would be nice if this proposal made a distinction between, say a parent of a kindergartner pulling a child out for a family trip and a 15 year old chronically skipping school.

Why exactly? Aren't both kids missing school and education? Is the child on vacation doing his math and writing work? School is not daycare, it has a purpose. When a child is not in school, she misses that purpose.

by Jasper on Jan 23, 2013 10:36 am • linkreport

So McDuffie thinks that our elected officials routinely disregard campaign finance rules, election laws, and basic ethics because they don't know they're doing something wrong?

Is this guy really ready for primetime?

Soooo not a fan of Catania but I ABSOLUTELY support this proposal and believe it would go a long way to addressing our education problem. Let's start holding parents accountable for their unruly kids and while they are at it, they should also tie the receipt of welfare benefits not just to their child's truancy record but also his/her history of criminal infractions. I am 100% convinced that it is a political landmine but have no doubt that it would definitely make inroads w/in the affected community.

If you can't keep your child out of repeated troubles with the law, then don't blame the city for the rest of your kids not being able to eat as much...blame your parenting of your delinquent kids.

Yes...I'm serious.

by HogWash on Jan 23, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

Truancy is a huge issue, but it's not easy to solve. There was a great report on WAMU about this that followed truancy officers following up with parents. Most of the parents weren't home (most likely working 2 or more jobs), other kids were being raised by their grandparents. When the truancy officers came to the home of a 16-year-old who had missed over 10 days just a month into the school year, his grandmother said "I haven't seen him all week. I certainly can't control him but I'll tell him he should be in school whenever he comes around next."

One girl who missed school was at home taking care of her sick and disabled mother; she didn't have any other options. According to her teachers, she had always been a good student.

Only once in the report did the truancy officers arrive at a home where the parents didn't know their son wasn't going to school and the father said he would take care of it immediately.

That's the situation we're dealing with in DC. I don't see how fining parents and guardians will help in 90% of cases.

My immediate thought with how to deal with kids who obviously can't be controlled would be to have publicly funded reform schools. Where I grew up, our neighbors had a child with tons of behavior and disciplinary problems that the parents couldn't control. They made the difficult decision to send him to a reform school, and luckily had the money to afford it. It may be a difficult decision but now that he's a successful adult, I don't think anybody can blame his parents. Perhaps these reform schools should be an option for lower-income people as well. Otherwise, I have no idea how to fix what is such an immense problem.

by Adam L on Jan 23, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

@Tim Krepp-My bet is that the families most likely to have children absent 20+ days of school aren't doing a whole lot of family vacationing.

by thump on Jan 23, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

Tim,

School calendars can be hard to schedule around, but not impossible. Spring break and winter break aren't going anywhere.

If you're taking your 5-year-old on vacation for a few extra days, that won't put you at the 10-day intervention level. But anyone who takes their children out of school just for fun for two weeks should at least be talked to.

by Colleen on Jan 23, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

Family vacations can be tremendously educational. Do you really think a week in Tokyo would not be fantastically valuable for a kids development? That said, I agree that that is probably not the issue with 99% of the cases here.

by Alan B. on Jan 23, 2013 10:51 am • linkreport

Adam, I saw that report and remain convinced that the child taking care of the sick represents a fraction of the truants. In warmer days, I walk past the truants on my way to work as they're blowing plumes of sticky-icky smoke. I would guess that 90% of the truants are truants for no other reason than poor guidance and having a sense that there is no penalty involved.

I haven't read it in full but I assume there's already a distinction between excused (illness, vacations) and unexcused (just because I'm trifling) absences. If your child is 20+ days absent from school, then the city needs to deal w/the parents before we all are made to pay for kids once their in the system. Place the onus where it should be.

by HogWash on Jan 23, 2013 11:00 am • linkreport

" Most of the parents weren't home (most likely working 2 or more jobs)"

Given the alleged unemployment rates in the areas where kids are truant, I really doubt there are working 2 jobs. Or one. Or even if there is a job in the "family" which in reality is a single mother.

Turning off the school provided smartrip card if the kid doesn't show up the school would help.

by charlie on Jan 23, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

The point of mentioning that WAMU report isn't that "most" or even a large portion of truants are at home taking care of a sick relative. It's that in most cases, the parents (or guardian/caregiver) aren't even in a position to know where their kid is, and in some cases they don't care. So how does fining parents help? Those who don't care will continue not caring, those who have no money won't be able to pay and those who are working 2 jobs will get nailed for something that they have little control over.

by MLD on Jan 23, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

There already is a child and family service system (including social services and juvenile court) that is brought in to manage "status offenses" (gross misbehavior, etc.) and supervise families. I'm guessing that criminal prosecution of parents would add yet another layer on this and make it more difficult to supervise what happens in families. I would imagine that many chronic, esp. long-term truants, are part of families that functionally have dissolved and where the children shuttle from relative to relative or spend periods staying with friends, or otherwise have little supervision. Under those conditions, prosecuting parents is likely to have little impact, esp. if they're in prison or mentally ill and on the street.

This is the kind of boneheaded idea that pops everywhere from time to time, but I don't know that its ever been successful.

by Rich on Jan 23, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

@Tim

I would say if your kid is absent from school 20 times, even if it is family vacations, you certainly deserve a talking to. My guess is this law would apply in the most egregious of cases, and I like it as an option, even if it is used on 10 parents a year. Go after the most egregious examples, and it is just another tool in the toolbox.

I agree, there are likely many cases where the parents have no control, but there are also certainly cases where the parents have plenty of control, but simply don't care. Those are the cases where the parents need a strong nudge in the right direction.

by Kyle-W on Jan 23, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

Jasper: "...this legislation would predominantly punish people that need help."

^this.

by JFMAMJJASON on Jan 23, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

@MLD

Exactly. I mean, even if you fined deadbeat parents, good luck collecting. If there were an easy way to stop truancy it would already have been done.

And, in the cases of where the parents are truly unwilling or unable to take care of their kids, I would think there would be some legal mechanism to remove them from their care and send the kids to a boarding/reform school. Being away from their toxic environments may be the exact thing these kids need.

by Adam L on Jan 23, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

I just want to note also that the only difference now is that the bill would make prosecution mandatory. It's already legal to prosecute the parents. All this would do is not allow OAG make an individual determination. It just seems like too blunt of a tool for this kind of complex issue.

by Alan B. on Jan 23, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

Oh please, if DCPS really cared about "time in the classroom", they wouldn't suspend teaching during DC-CAS week, they wouldn't have random days off for "records day", they might make an effort to create a coherent calendar, odd half days, etc.

This school year my daughter's class's assistant teacher has missed over 75% of the school days, for "medical" reasons. This is not the first year this teacher has pulled this. The principal, for whatever reason, is unable to fire her. At this point, the PTA has stepped in and hired an instructional aide to back fill the teacher and not leave a class of 4 year olds alone with one teacher.

So, in addition to the tax money I (and you) are paying for a teacher, the money we raise for the PTA has to go to pay for someone we're already paying for?

Forgive me if I find the "your kid misses ten days and child services will show up at your door" threat a little hypocritical of the DC government. Maybe they can get their employees to show up to work first.

by Tim Krepp on Jan 23, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

Given the alleged unemployment rates in the areas where kids are truant, I really doubt there are working 2 jobs. Or one. Or even if there is a job in the "family" which in reality is a single mother.

Interesting. And which areas are kids most truant? I didn't see that covered in the story. If you're referring to EOTR, the unemployment rate in W8 is about 20%. Somehow, I fail to believe that the largest levels of truancy comes out of that 20%. But go ahead, this is your shtick.

So how does fining parents help?

It helps by raising the level of expectations. Tax 'em is what I say. Have 'em take a hit on their income taxes.

I would imagine that many chronic, esp. long-term truants, are part of families that functionally have dissolved and where the children shuttle from relative to relative or spend periods staying with friends, or otherwise have little supervision.

My anecdotal information suggests otherwise. I have tutored many kids throughout the years whose parents DID work but either didn't have the capacity to navigate their child's education or simply don't care. In fact, I personally know about 15 kids w/in my own community whose parents also worked..and just didn't place an emphasis on their education. By the time they reached 10th grade, they were so far behind that they eventually dropped out. My most heartwrenching case involved a kid who dropped out 2nd semester of his SENIOR year. His mom worked. He had no infractions w/the law, wasn't a thug, no kids. He just smoked a pound of marijuana a day. Now, at 22, he still has no GED even after attending the PAID classes

These environments are the kind from the "crack baby" era. These are parents who don't place an emphasis on educating their children. These are facts..not just things I believe.

by HogWash on Jan 23, 2013 12:08 pm • linkreport

This school year my daughter's class's assistant teacher has missed over 75% of the school days, for "medical" reasons

Illness is a real thing. Do you know details about her illness or are just convinced she's lying?>\

by HogWash on Jan 23, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash; "Interesting. And which areas are kids most truant? I didn't see that covered in the story. If you're referring to EOTR, the unemployment rate in W8 is about 20%. Somehow, I fail to believe that the largest levels of truancy comes out of that 20%. But go ahead, this is your shtick."

Fair enough. From the article:

"Noting a graduation rate of 59 percent in D.C. public schools, Catania said that on average about 3,000 students miss at least a month of school each year. At Anacostia High School in Southeast, 45 percent of students missed 21 days or more of school last year, he added."

That being said, my point is mostly that "parents" in W7 and 8 aren't plural, and they are not working two jobs.

by charlie on Jan 23, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

Personally, paying $$$/day for private school makes me very reluctant to schedule even the first or last day of a vacation on a school day.

Perhaps instead of fining parents when kids miss school, they should simply be billed for the cost of providing the unused seat. I am paying taxes to educate children in the school system, not to provide options. If you doctor makes you pay for a missed appointment, does your medical insurance pick up the tab.

Agree that would have no impact on some people, but at least parents with some money, who pull kids from school to save on airfare, childcare, or eldercare, would be presented with both sides of the economic choices they make.

by JimT on Jan 23, 2013 12:23 pm • linkreport

@HogWash Long story short, yes, she's jerking us all around. I'm not going into any more specifics than that.

In broader terms, if an employee is going to miss that much time out of work, there needs to be a procedure to place her on paid leave and fill the critical slot left unattended. I firmly believe in supporting employees who have medical conditions, but that doesn't mean we can leave the position empty.

by Tim Krepp on Jan 23, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

@HogWash - "I would guess that 90% of the truants are truants for no other reason than poor guidance and having a sense that there is no penalty involved."

Do you really think the kids on the corner smoking up or running around think there is absolutely no penalty involved though? I just don't get the sense that these kids are doing these things because there is no penalty - i think rather that they just don't care about the penalties for what they are doing. Maybe punishing their relatives is a way to get them to pay attention, but is an even more punitive system really going to be helpful in creating a positive environment where they receive mentorship and guidance? In my experience, it will only produce kids who are more resistant to those things.

I would much rather see an increased cooperative effort to create schools and communities that are truly meeting all of these students needs, than to rely on hostility and fear, something which is most likely all too present in the lives of the majority of truants we are discussing.

by David P on Jan 23, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

Do you really think the kids on the corner smoking up or running around think there is absolutely no penalty involved though? I just don't get the sense that these kids are doing these things because there is no penalty - i think rather that they just don't care about the penalties for what they are doing.

I think it's a mixture of both..to what degree I am unsure.

I would much rather see an increased cooperative effort to create schools and communities that are truly meeting all of these students needs, than to rely on hostility and fear, something which is most likely all too present in the lives of the majority of truants we are discussing.

That all makes sense but the soft hand "coddling" approach hasn't worked. How much more money are we willing to invest in our schools and not consider ways to hold parents accountable for their own kids? At some point the math catches up w/us. If the kids think going after their parents is hostile, then I'm all for that.

These are likely some of the same kids we discussed during Ken's most recent article on charter school expulsions. Sure, kick them out of charters, send them to "special" schools but make no effort to hold parents accountable? I don't support that.

FWIW, I prefer my proposal to "tax" welfare benefits than penalties.

by HogWash on Jan 23, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

Upon further thinking, perhaps the key here is to make a distinction. I guess if the kids are like 12 and under I would put the burden on the parents. At a certain point past that age, you have to recognize that guardians might not be able to exercise that level of control. Not sure where to draw that line.

by Alan B. on Jan 23, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

@ Alan B: The burden should be on the parents. The problem is that a lot of parents are barely in control of themselves. What is then the point of punishing them for not being in control of their children?

(The threat of) punishment is supposed to make people comply. But if people aren't able to comply, then what's the point of punishing?

by Jasper on Jan 23, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

Re: Truancy

In Brazil there is a widely lauded program to pay students for attending school regularly. It has been shown to be very effective. While paying students would be politically impossible in this country, there's a reasonable chance that the inverse of that policy (fining for non-attendance) would work.

Info on the Brazil program:

Bolsa Escola is a cash transfer program that provided cash payments to poor families with children ages 6 to 15 in exchange for their enrollment in school and their attendance of at least 85% of school days. The program was first implemented in 1995 by the municipalities of Brasília (the Federal District) and Campinas (in São Paulo State). Within three years, over 50 municipalities in seven states implemented similar programs. After these successful local CCT experiences in the mid 1990s, CCTs gained momentum in Congress,[12] prompting President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's government to create the Federal Bolsa Escola program in April 2001.[13]

By the end of 2001, it had been implemented in 98% of the 5,561 Brazilian municipalities, providing stipends to over 8.2 million children from 4.8 million families, at a cost of over US$700 million.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_policy_in_Brazil#Conditional_cash_transfer_policies

by Falls Church on Jan 23, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

Paying students isn't politically impossible int his country; we've already done it:

http://dcist.com/2008/08/21/dc_schools_to_pay_students_for_grad.php

Not sure whatever happened to that program, but I don't think it's still around. Does anyone know?

by Tim Krepp on Jan 23, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

It has been shown to be very effective.

It has been done...even here in DC. I think it was based off of the NYC school's model.

by HogWash on Jan 23, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

Doesn't Chicago have a pay-students thing too?

by Jasper on Jan 23, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

Tim - The program ended when the funding for it was spent. If I recall correctly, it was effective at getting students to show up but less effective (actually, not at all effective in most cases) at improving student performance.

by Austin on Jan 23, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

Thanks Austin. I remember it made a bit of news, along with a flurry of discussion of "metrics" and "pilot program", but then nothing. I guess DCPS put it back in the attic with the broken model airplane and the bike they no longer ride...

by Tim Krepp on Jan 23, 2013 6:00 pm • linkreport

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