D.C. public school activists who believe that transparency and public participation have been casualties of the Michelle Rhee era had their say at the D.C. Council this morning.
The occasion was a hearing on the "Public Schools Hearing Amendment Act of 2008," introduced by Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D). It seeks to tweak the terms of last year's mayoral takeover of the school system, restoring the past practice of releasing preliminary budget information and holding a hearing early enough in the annual cycle that citizens can get an idea of what DCPS is up to.
"What we're asking you to do is revive the system we had before," said Mary Levy, a school budget expert with the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. "We had public hearings and a certain level of budget detail."
Rhee is scheduled to appear before the Council on Thursday to discuss budget matters.
In a written response, city administrator Dan Tangherlini said DCPS operates like any other executive agency, "establishing a clear, concise and deliberative process" when assembling its budget. He said Rhee would hold a public forum on the budget Nov. 20.
But Levy said DCPS is unique in District government because parents entrust their children to the school system for seven hours a day, 10 months a year.
"They rightly expect to have something to say about the policies and priorities directing the treatment of their children," she said.