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Patterson proposes replacing school board with appointed body

(Published November 29, 1999)


Staff Writer

Councilwoman Kathleen Patterson, D-Ward 3, has proposed suspending a portion of the city’s "home rule" charter by replacing the elected D.C. Board of Education without asking D.C. voters to approve the change.

Patterson’s proposal, introduced Nov. 23, would permit voters to reject an appointed school board in 2004 — but only after it would already have been in control of D.C. Public Schools for almost four years.

The proposal calls for the appointment of a five-member school board, nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the council. Members would be appointed to four-year terms. The mayor would appoint the school board president from among the five board members.

The legislation also would create a nine-member nominating committee of parents, teachers and other school staff, and community organizations — also appointed by the mayor. How-ever, the initial nominating committee could be given only 16 days to complete its work under Patterson’s proposal.

"At stake in the governance debate is accountability for policy direction and oversight in the District of Columbia schools," Patterson said in a written statement. "The mayor and the council are elected by District voters. We are responsible for funding the school system and the governance structure should reflect that responsibility."

Patterson’s bill is the second recent proposal for changing the city’s public school governance structure.

Councilman Kevin P. Chavous, D-Ward 7, who chairs the education committee, has proposed reducing the elected school board’s size from 11 to nine members and having voters citywide select ward representatives after a ward runoff election. Chavous’ proposal also calls for voters to elect the school board president, and it defines school board responsibilities.

The Chavous proposal would ask city voters to approve a change in the "home rule" charter next spring before the changes would become effective.

Council hearings are planned on both proposals, the first on Nov. 29 before the education committee.

The D.C. Board of Education was stripped of its authority over the public schools by the control board a day after many of its members were elected in November 1995. The board’s authority is currently limited to overseeing a handful of the city’s public charter schools.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator