The District gets back on the right road in busing special education students

Monday, May 17, 2010

SO WOEFUL was the District's performance in busing special education students that a federal judge had to take control. Court-appointed administrator David Gilmore remembers how the system struggled, managing to get, on average, just 30 percent of children to school on time. That was assuming the buses even showed up. Seven years later, the judge has agreed to return responsibility to the District. That is a significant vote of confidence that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is right to celebrate.

U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman signed a decision May 5 that begins to transition full control of the transportation system back to the District. Mr. Gilmore had reported to the judge that the city is "consistently providing safe, timely and appropriate" services. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education will assume responsibility while Mr. Gilmore monitors a transition set to end, barring any problems, on Oct. 1.

Mr. Fenty hailed the decision as another example of the progress made under mayoral control over education. Of course, credit must also go to Mr. Gilmore, who is legendary for his success in turning around troubled agencies. Prior to his work with school transportation, he transformed the city's dysfunctional public housing agency. Those accomplishments give Mr. Gilmore the authority to judge those most capable of bringing about change. So it was noteworthy when Mr. Gilmore went out of his way at the news conference announcing the judge's decision to call for support of Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and her reforms. He noted his regret at not being able to reduce the high costs of busing special education students because so many students have to be placed far outside the city due to a lack of appropriate programs. Mr. Gilmore said the best hope for special education, like so many other things wrong with the public schools, rests in the transformative work being done by Ms. Rhee.

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