Advocates for legislation to convert several public schools into community hubs for health care, adult education and other services had spent weeks preparing for a D.C Council hearing Wednesday afternoon. So they were mighty ticked when Chairman Kwame R. Brown cancelled the session with just three hours notice.
Brown said he wanted representatives of D.C. public schools and of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to attend, and that “unavoidable scheduling conflicts” made that impossible. But that’s not quite the whole story. Sources at the Wilson Building familiar with the behind-the-scenes wrangling say DCPS never committed to sending anyone to offer testimony on the “Community Schools Incentive Amendment Act.”
When the hearing was set up prior to Thanksgiving, D.C. State Superintendent of Education Hosanna Mahaley said she would testify, according to spokesman Marc Caposino. But that was before Mahaley started to take heat for missing D.C. State Board of Education meetings and promised to start attending. As it turned out, one was scheduled for early Wednesday evening. Sources said Mahaley waited until late Wednesday morning to tell Brown she couldn’t make the council hearing. Assistant superintendent Ellen Durso was available, but Kwame Brown wanted the superintendent.
Supporters of the bill, led by D.C. Voice executive director Jeff Smith, led a group of about 40 to Brown’s office to register their unhappiness. The council chairman, not having the best day, was actually driving his son to the emergency room at Childrens National Medical Center for an undisclosed problem.
“I didn’t create this,” he said of the busted meeting, talking to the group from his car by speakerphone. He stuck by his decision to reschedule the hearing for a time when agency officials would be available.
Earlier the bill’s sponsor, Council member Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) tried to reassure supporters that the bill was likely to pass and that this was a temporary--if quite annoying--setback.
“I hate to use the word apology, because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Michael A. Brown said. “But I want to apologize for the system, because this is sometimes what happens in public policy.”