School Takeover Impending

Yesterday, the DC City Council passed Mayor Fenty’s school takeover plan by a vote of 9-2. There’s a prolbem here that I’ll get to in a second, but it has to do with the past year’s election cycle. The plan can be read in its legal entirety [PDF] via the website, but for all intents and purposes, the school system will be held under the Mayor’s perview. In specific, a new Chancellor of Schools position will be created, and they will manage all the schools’ needs and responsibilities, from school standards to collective bargaining. The new Deputy Mayor for Education will directly oversee the new Department of Education, and the Chancellor of Schools.

The power grab here is fairly well monumental. Now, I understand the Mayor’s public motives for doing this: he wants further accountability in the schools, and that’s going to require the usurpation of authority out from under the school board and the DC Superintendent of Schools. But my real concern here has to do with that issue I mentioned in the first paragraph:

For something this important, shouldn’t the council wait until the new councilmembers from Wards 4 and 7 are seated before bringing up such an important issue? I realize that the margin of victory for the mayor (9 to 2, Schwartz and Mendelson dissenting) would not be altered with two new members voting against the measure, but it strikes me as unfortunate that the Mayor would be unwilling to let all Wards of the city be part of the process.

The second vote before the council will occur before the end of April, still well before the election to seat two new councilmembers, at which point it will be sent to Congress for ratification.

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