D.C. School Takeover

Frequently Asked Questions

Theola Labbé, David Nakamura and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 29, 2007; 4:02 PM

Q. Who would hire and fire the schools superintendent?

A. The mayor would nominate the superintendent and the council would confirm the selection. The mayor would have authority to fire that person, who would be called the schools chancellor.

Q. Who would oversee the school system budget?

A. The mayor would propose the operating budget and the council would have line item control. A new construction agency, appointed by the mayor, would oversee the schools' capital budget, but the council would still approve that budget.

Q. How would parents be involved?

A. Fenty is proposing to create a new ombudsman's office, which would be charged with investigating complaints from parents. He would name the ombudsman, who would work under the office of the mayor. Fenty also wants to create parent academies to help train parents in ways they can help schools and stay involved.

Q. What would become of the Board of Education?

A. Under Fenty's plan, the nine-member school board would have input only on functions usually handled by state boards, such as standardized testing and teacher certification.

Q. Is there opposition on the council?

A. Council members Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) have been vocal opponents. Mendelson has argued that a change of governance is not the answer to improving schools. Schwartz has said she fears a loss of democracy since the school board could have fewer powers.

Q. Is there public opposition?

A. Several groups, including unions and grassroots organizations, are against the takeover. They are pushing for a referendum that would allow voters to decide whether the mayor should control the schools.

Q. How would charter schools be affected by the mayor's proposal?

A. Charter schools are publicly funded but operate independently of the D.C. public school system that the mayor wants to take over. There are 55 charter schools, 18 overseen by the D.C. Board of Education and 37 overseen by the D.C. Public Charter School Board, a seven-member panel appointed by the mayor.

Fenty's proposal calls for putting all 55 charter schools under the authority of the D.C. Public Charter School Board. The charter board would be the only body with the power to open new schools.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company