Unhappy anniversaries today: One year ago, shots erupted on South Capitol Street from a minivan full of teenagers, leaving four other youths dead over a dispute that started over a fake gold bracelet. To mark the anniversary, D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At Large) is introducing the “South Capitol Street Tragedy Memorial Act of 2011.” Patrick Madden reports for WAMU-FM: “Catania says his plan calls for behavior health screening at every level of schooling, even Head Start. It looks to tighten the truancy laws with earlier interventions and penalties for parents. But at its heart, the measure is about collecting data and using it correctly. ‘It does me no good to develop, say, substance abuse programs for children who are at age 13, which is the national standard, when I know substance abuse in our city starts at nine,’ says Catania. ‘So I’ve got to align my curriculum and my programs to the reality of my kids.’” Also: Thirty years ago today, John Hinckley Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan, press secretary Jim Brady, D.C. cop Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy. Tuesday, he asked a federal judge for additional freedom to leave St. Elizabeths to visit his mother, Legal Times reports.
AFTER THE JUMP — Henderson asks IG to looking to test erasures — charter advocates pre-outraged about Gray budget — internal tensions over DCFD/FEMS identity set off by logo order — MPD brass get paid pretty well — voucher bill to House floor today — Rhee is OK with teacher unions’ existence
*** MAIN COURSE ***
MORE TEST ERASURE FALLOUT — With controversy ongoing over the test-cheating allegations aired Monday in USA Today, DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced Tuesday that she was asking the D.C. Inspector General to investigate reports of abnormally high erasure rates in some schools. Bill Turque writes in the Post: “Henderson also released a series of reports from a test security firm the District hired to investigate elevated erasure rates at eight schools, including Noyes, in 2009. The firm, Caveon Test Security, said it found no evidence that staff tampered with answer sheets. While Henderson said she had complete confidence in Caveon, she said she referred the matter to Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby to eliminate doubts about test security and affirm the integrity of the teachers involved. ‘These poor teachers are now tainted,’ Henderson said. ‘They were cleared by an investigation. I feel like I owe it to them to remove the taint.’ But District testing procedures may face added scrutiny. D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) said Tuesday evening that he might hold hearings on the erasures. Such an inquiry could feature subpoenas for school officials who declined to speak to USA Today.” USA Today also follows up, as does Examiner. Henderson went on WTTG-TV to discuss the burgeoning story. Meanwhile, Salon’s Alex Pareene calls Michelle Rhee’s response to the story “Nixonian.” And Turque highlights e-mails obtained by the USA Today reporters showing that Anita Dunn is still very much engaged in DCPS communications policy, telling a system flack to “just stop answering his emails.”
BUDGET COUNTDOWN — As Mayor Vincent C. Gray prepares to release his budget proposal, “school choice proponents are criticizing [Gray] for planning to renege on a promise to put charter school funding on par with traditional schools,” Deborah Simmons writes in the Washington Times. Robert Cane and his fellow charter school advocates want Gray to include a $3,000-per-pupil facilities allowance in the budget, while Gray says the formula will stay at $2,800 per pupil like last year. But, said an unnamed Gray flack, charters “will be able to use $5 million of $20 million in federal funding toward facilities, which then brings the level of funding up to $3,000.” Says Cane: “We are still hoping that the mayor will send a $3,000 facilities allowance to the council on Friday. If he doesn’t, we’ll be asking the D.C. Council at the charter school budget hearing on April 8 and individually in their offices to find the $7.3 million to do that.” In other budget dealings: Gray released the results of his budget survey, which shows most respondents supporting tax and fee increases. Enter the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, arguing against a “one-sided approach” (read: cuts only) to filling the budget gap.
FEMS FATALES — Acting Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has moved to restore the old D.C. Fire Department crest to the uniforms of what is now Fire and Emergency Medical Services, which had its logo redesigned under former chief Dennis Rubin. Firefighters union leader Edward Smith tells WaTimes and WTTG-TV that his members are upset because the rank-and-file wasn’t consulted about the change and because union members will have to pay to change the patches. But there are hints that the rancor is more rooted in the decision to ditch the now-outdated DCFD initials for FEMS, “which some might construe as less than flattering,” says the FOX 5 report. “’I won’t wear it!’ said one sergeant who didn’t want to be named.” WaTimes reports: “While the logo with ‘FEMS’ lettering in lieu of ‘DCFD’ is a sore point among some members, Mr. Smith said, he doesn’t care about the acronym as much as the clothing. He prefers uniforms approved by the National Fire Protection Association.” Phil Mendelson says to Fox 5: “I don’t blame them for being upset because this is like a yo-yo going back and forth.”
MPD’S BIG EARNERS — While the number of sworn officers in the Metropolitan Police Department dips to a “troubling” level, “the number of D.C. police officers getting six-figure salaries has risen sharply in the past four years,” Freeman Klopott reports in Examiner. “ The police department is paying 81 members at least $110,000 annually, for a near 30 percent increase of six-figure earners since 2007, when the department had 63. [Cathy Lanier] became chief in January 2007. ... The jobs of the department’s top earners range from field commanders to office staff, including one inspector earning $110,730 this year who recently testified that his primary job is to check Lanier’s email. ... Lanier said in a statement to The Washington Examiner that those who earn six-figure salaries ‘get no overtime or comp time and they work on average 12-14 hours a day. ... I assure you they all work hard for their positions.’”
BAD NEWS — Here’s a bracing statistic, reported by Bloomberg News: “The jobless rate in the poorest part of the District of Columbia is higher than in any U.S. metropolitan area with a labor-force of comparable size.” In other words, there’s no city of Ward 8’s size with a higher unemployment rate, which is 25.2 percent. “The next highest rate, as measured by the U.S. Labor Department, was 25.1 percent, in El Centro, California.” The comparison apparently does not include Ward 8-sized portions of other American cities, however, so take the figures with a grain of salt. In other dismal news, WAMU-FM reports that District residents “are more likely to die earlier and less likely to graduate from high school,” per a new health study.
VOUCHER BILL TO GET HOUSE VOTE TODAY — The D.C. school voucher bill is set to hit the House floor today, where it is expected to pass with the strong support of Speaker John Boehner. In a statement Tuesday, the White House said it was “strongly opposed” to the bill, Ben Pershing reports at D.C. Wire, but it “did not threaten to veto the bill, suggesting that it could still pass as part of a larger compromise on education policy. ... Boehner has said that flexibility by Obama on this topic could help smooth negotiations on other subjects, perhaps including a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind bill. The measure is expected to pass the House with ease Wednesday, but it is unlikely to come up as a standalone measure in the Senate, where Democratic leaders oppose it.” Also The Hill.
LONG LIVE THE ‘GRAVY TRAIN’ — Jonetta Rose Barras takes aim at the Gray administration “gravy train” in her Examiner column, writing that Monday’s council hearing “made clear the scandals aren’t necessarily innocent ‘missteps.’” Rather, “a portrait was painted of aggressive, rapacious political operatives positioning themselves and others at the public trough for an all-you-can-eat feast. It also became clear that Gerri Mason Hall, the mayor’s former $200,000-a-year chief of staff whom he forced to resign — wasn’t solely responsible for the cronyism and nepotism that has marked Gray’s administration thus far. According to testimony, only three people were principally and directly involved in personnel decisions — former campaign chairwoman Lorraine Green, transition committee member Constance Newman, and Gray. The mayor reportedly approved all the salaries of political hires. Based on testimony, it appeared Hall and interim human resources director Judy Banks essentially implemented hiring decisions made by the trio.” That’s not to say Hall and Banks get a pass. Barras accuses Banks in particular of profiteering by taking a $53,000 a year pay raise for serving as Gray’s interim personnel director.
RHEE DOESN’T HATE TEACHERS UNIONS THAT MUCH — Michelle Rhee defends teachers’ right to unionize in a Huffington Post op-ed, putting some distance between her and many of the state Republican politicos who have embraced her: “When we lament unbalanced union contracts that do not serve children well, it is important to remember that these contracts were signed by two parties, making district leaders just as responsible for the lack of balance that exists today. And district leaders do need to take a hard line in union negotiations to bring a balance back in favor of student achievement. But that doesn’t mean we should encourage getting rid of those negotiations altogether. Disagreement and debate can be a good thing and do not have to result in policies favoring adult interests over children’s. ... Collective bargaining for wages and benefits is not the reason American schools fail. Even in ‘right to work’ states that do not have collective bargaining, we still see many of the problems that hurt our schools: bureaucratic inertia, red tape limits on parent choice, seniority-based layoffs, and fiscal irresponsibility. Overseas, many countries see teachers unions drive high standards and expectations for all teachers. The problem is not collective bargaining. The problems arise when unions use collective bargaining to push for policies that devalue great teachers, such as insisting that all teachers should be treated as interchangeable in terms of performance and pay.” She’s in Ohio tonight, showing lawmakers “Waiting for Superman.”
CH-CH-CH-CHANGES, INDEED — Julianne Malveaux writes in the Afro on the city’s demographic changes: “[E]ven the block on which former mayor Marion Barry cut his teeth, married former wife Effie [sic], and ran for mayor in 1976 is now Whiter than it has ever been with a Norman Rockwell-type White family (two kids, intact family, dog) living in Barry’s old house. Those of us who live in and love the District are amazed, amused, and sometimes apoplectic about the changes. A gay bar where the barbershop used to be? A neighborhood restaurant where the waitress seats Whites before African Americans? Ch-ch-ch-ch changes, goes the song, and so it goes. ... My concern about all of this is political. What does it mean when urban America, once the African-American political base, goes from chocolate to Neapolitan (that ice cream with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, all in equal swirls)? Mayors who could once hook a brother or a sister up now have more constituencies to balance. Mayors who could be counted on to deliver on the interests of African-American people now have to listen to others. When the interests of African Americans clash with the interests of others, what does a mayor intent on re-election do?”
*** SMALL PLATES ***
Members of Congress owe city $15,000 in parking fines; says spokesman for Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who paid $2,180 worth of tickets: “He is pleased to have helped decrease the D.C. budget deficit.” (Roll Call)
Metro Labor Council backs Vincent Orange (D.C. Wire)
Lanier takes WaTimes to task for printing Cherita Whiting’s name in connection with officer complaint (WaTimes)
Taxi Commission lets interstate cab riders off the hook for fuel surcharge — for no good reason (WBJ)
Judge approves settlement in 2005 mass arrest case (Legal Times)
Judiciary Committee moves bill to establish forensics agency (Examiner)
Does a whiter D.C. mean a better chance of getting full voting rights? (American Prospect)
Hey look: Another story about stalled ballpark-area development (WaTimes)
DYRS official shot in robbery attempt (WaTimes)
Barracks Row gets churched up (DCmud)
No, Barry and Catania don’t particularly like each other (WTTG-TV)
Watch the Adrian Fenty education reform road show (Business-Higher Education Forum)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray holds weekly news briefing, 10 a.m.; meets with Sen. Dick Durbin on Hill, 11:30 a.m.; visits Rhode Island Row construction, 12:15 p.m.; appears at Developmental Disability Awareness reception, 4 p.m. in JAWB G9; appears at anniversary vigil for South Capitol Street tragedy, 5:45 p.m.; attends Radio Television Correspondents’ Association dinner, 7 p.m. at Convention Center