The race for five seats on the fractious District of Columbia Board of Education is shaping up as the political highlight of the long, muggy D.C. summer, with potential candidates hoping to raise unprecedented amounts of campaign money and striving to generate a high degree of voter interest.
Thus far, the budding school board campaigns have received little attention for a variety of reasons. Ward 3 candidate Mary Ann Keeffe, for example, announced her candidacy on March 30 -- the day President Reagan was shot. The first action in the school board campaign thus escaped notice.
Although the elections are not until November, this is the season for candidates to discuss strategy and raise money. Some candidates are talking about spending up to $10,000 to win seats that were had for $1,000 or less last time around. And some of the embattled incumbents are worried about the kind of anti-incumbent feeling among voters that characterized the 1979 school board races.
"I think school parents are tired of having the game of politics played with the lives and the schools of the kids," said Wanda Washburn, Keeffe's major announced opponent for the Ward 3 seat. Her view promises to become a war cry for candidates seeking election to the board.
Keeffe, an economist and former chairman of the Ward 3 Democrats, and Washburn, a veteran volunteer worker in the schools, are competing for the seat being vacated by school board member Carol Schwartz, who has decided not to seek reelection.
Also contested are the two at-large seats now held by Frank Shaffer-Corona and Barbara Lett Simmons, the Ward 2 seat held by Alaire B. Rieffel, and the Ward 8 seat held by R. Calvin Lockridge.
Neither Shaffer-Corona nor Simmons has announced for reelection, but observers of the board believe both want to keep their seats. The Rev. David Eaton of All Souls Church, Mayor Marion Barry's pastor, is considering running for an at-large seat, and Athel Q. Liggins, pincipal of McKinley High School, is also reported to be interested in an at-large seat.
There has been less activity in Ward 2, with Rieffel the only certain candidate thus far.
In Ward 8, Lockridge hopes to keep his seat in the face of challenges by Linda Moody, an aide to City Councilmember and former school board member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large); Phinis Jones, a former aide to Councilmember Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8); and several others.
Among the anticipated campaign issues are the current board's internal dissension, the board's often stormy relationship with Mayor Marion Barry and the budget for the public schools -- virtually the same issues that dominated the 1979 contests.
Barry indicated several months ago that he was considering backing a slate of school board candidates, and he and Liggins met in the mayor's District Building office. But other candidates say they have not yet talked to the mayor. Barry laid himself open to charges of bossism in 1979 when he supported a slate of school board contenders, and memories of that issue may linger.
Some of the current candidates -- particularly those like Keeffe, Moody and Jones who have strong partisan political ties -- worry about being allied too closely with elected officials in what are supposed to be nonpartisan races. But at the same time, some of the them feel that intensified voter interest will make it necessary for them to spend more money and consequently, they will need to lean on party stalwarts for funds.
Keeffe, Washburn and Lockridge are all talking of spending up to $10,000 to win seats. Previously, about $4,000 was the top amount spent, and some seats were won for less than $1,000. "I don't think I spent more than $300 last time," Lockridge said.
However, experience would indicate that the candidates may find fund-raising to be tough going. The shcools have never been a top priority among traditional political donors and even active school parents are not likely to be a major source of cash.
D.C. Police Chief Burtell M. Jefferson, who retires June 30, has been seeking a full-time job in the National Football League. So far, no job has been offered.
An NflY spokesman said the league's security office has been talking with Jefferson about a part-time job. The spokesman said that several persons throughout the country investigate security matters from time to time for the league.
But as of last Friday, said the spokesman, no such job had been offered to Jefferson.