As a veteran teacher who has taught in seven of the 150-plus D.C. public schools, I was shocked by the decision of the D.C. Council's Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation last week not to move the School Modernization Act of 2005 forward.
Of the seven schools to which I've been assigned during the past 30 years, six are in Wards 7 and 8 and all seven would be on a "Condemned: Do Not Admit Humans" list if they were residential properties. Six of the seven schools are more than 65 years old and are in dire need of renovation. Their infrastructure cannot even support Internet access.
I have slogans on my classroom walls that proclaim "Children First" and "Their Future Is Now," but when I leave at the end of the day, I have to cover books, computers and student workstations with plastic to catch the falling plaster and water from the leaking roof. In the school cafeteria, 55-gallon garbage cans are strategically placed to catch the water from gaping holes in the ceilings. In warm weather, we swelter without air conditioning; in cold weather, we shiver.
The dwindling funds that the mayor and the D.C. Council have proposed in recent years to modernize the schools would require my school to wait another 55 years for improvements -- or replacement -- to make it a safe, healthy, clean and modern environment for learning.
Whenever I attend D.C. Board of Education or council meetings, I marvel at the state-of-the-art facilities where they take place. On the rare occasions when some of my students have accompanied me, I've noticed how awed they are by the John Wilson Building and the D.C. Public Schools headquarters. They must wonder why their school is crumbling while those who run the city meet in comfortable, cushioned, air-conditioned or well-heated rooms.
Why the double standard?
Which council members would send their own children to schools such as John Philip Sousa, the middle school where I teach?
Where is the political will to protect the children of the District?
Where is the public outrage about these schools that are the shame of the nation's capital?
-- Elizabeth Davis