Education advocates scored a big win yesterday over Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee when the District Council voted to reject the administration's proposal to strike the legal requirements for public hearings on the school budget.
The mayor had proposed to kill the law in the Budget Support Act for the 09 budget.
Advocates did a bit of a victory dance in a news release yesterday praising the council for its vote and giving its own broad coalition of parents, teachers and education activists a pat on the back for their hard work and victory.
Longtime school activist Iris Toyer, who played a key role in getting the initial 1987 law requiring the hearings, told the D.C. Wire this morning that yesterday's vote was the result of lobbying efforts, including meetings with council members' staff, a successful online petition and a general willingness to kick up a lot of dust over the issue of transparency in school reform.
"We used all of the list serves that we have," she said. "We testified on the issues and spoke directly from a historical perspective and talked about the impact of what it would mean in
terms of good decision-making by the executive and the chancellor. ..... We understand the budget and the process, perhaps better than those that are now in charge of putting it together. We've been dealing with superintendents...and these issues for a long time."
The issue of transparency is paramount, she said, and right now when its comes to the school reform process and the Fenty administration, the situation "is as clear as mud."
"There is no transparency.... It's like everything is a secret and any question is viewed as a challenge to their competency, their authority," she said of Fenty and Rhee. "I am baffled."
Rhee said last month that she would continue to hold a hearing early in the process of formulating the school budget. She also pledged to have more specifics next year on school-by-school spending sooner than she did this year.
School advocates are not taking any chances. They are staying on top of the issue to make sure the second council vote, set for June 3, remains the same as yesterdays.
And, Toyer added, "We also must move to have the council to put in place an affirmative piece of legislation separate from the budget support act" requiring Rhee hold hearings.
She said there are council members willing to introduce a bill.
"We offered a piece of legislation," Toyer noted. "It's just a matter of getting it introduced."