Mr. Orange’s hypocrisy on education reform and The Post

April 19, 2011

D.C. COUNCIL hopeful Vincent Orange wouldn’t be the first politician running for something who tries to have it both ways. One would be hard-pressed, though, to find a more cynical display of political duality than Mr. Orange’s use of our words to promote his Democratic candidacy for an at-large seat on the council while simultaneously joining in a protest denouncing The Post. If Mr. Orange can’t seem to make up his mind about whether we should be believed or boycotted, what does that suggest about his ability to withstand pressure in governing the city?

Mr. Orange participated in last week’s demonstration by the Washington Teachers’ Union outside The Post’s offices on 15th Street NW. The union is urging a boycott of The Post because of unhappiness over its coverage of education in the District; the editorial board was singled out for criticism for its support of reforms instituted by Michelle A. Rhee when she was D.C. schools chancellor. Clearly, Mr. Orange is entitled to his opinion and we — who are in the opinion business — don’t begrudge anyone the right to express his or her views.

What’s troubling is the hypocrisy in Mr. Orange’s selective use of our editorials to advance his candidacy and the questions it raises about Mr. Orange’s stances on the important issues of school reform. How can he denounce the Post for the very principles that shaped the editorials appropriated in his campaign literature? Here’s Mr. Orange’s various explanations to us: He’s a “bridge” who brings people together; he wanted to stand with the teachers; his wife is a member of the union and he’s been endorsed by the WTU. So what happens when the union, which has made the elimination of a rigorous teacher evaluation system a top priority, comes to him for his support in undoing the reforms? Mr. Orange said he has made no promises but would work to create consensus with the primary interests of children in mind.

We have — contrary to the impression fostered by some of Mr. Orange’s literature — endorsed D.C. State Board of Education member Patrick Mara in the April 26 special election. Mr. Mara, a Republican, brings a refreshing candor to the issues facing the District. No matter what part of town he is in or what audience he is addressing, Mr. Mara is consistent about what he believes and what he would do. He says he won’t increase taxes, though that angers some voters worried about cuts to social programs; he tells teachers he thinks it is fair to use student test scores as a factor in evaluations. No one can have it both ways, and Mr. Mara is honest enough not to try.

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