In case you have not been watching (the D.C. public school system)

It’s so bad that three agencies — the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Education Department and the D.C. Office of the Inspector General — are now investigating the D.C. Public School system.

This is after the revelation earlier this year that more than 900 students — a third of the capital’s entire graduating class — were not eligible for the diplomas they were given.

Add to that the bombshell last week that the school system is full of residency fraud — a good chunk of the kids who come to D.C. schools don’t even live in the city. This is happening at the highest levels, investigations showed. The executive assistant to former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson, Angela Williams-Skelton, hauled her grandkids from their Frederick, Md., home to a D.C. public school every day, right under the chancellor’s nose.

And then we have the resignation of one of Bowser’s most influential and prestigious appointments, the schools chancellor picked to follow Henderson, Antwan Wilson. He resigned because of the way his daughter got to leapfrog hundreds of D.C. students on a waitlist to get into the school she wanted.

Here is more from Petula Dvorak at The Washington Post.  As far as I can tell this has not been a major news story, and the main point of this particular article is to suggest that D.C. voters do not seem to care very much either.  Here are two related Scott Alexander posts.


'is to suggest that D.C. voters do not seem to care very much either'

Well, considering that Congress runs DC, why should they? Any time voters in DC do something that Congress does not like, the DC voters lose. Anybody who lives around DC knows this, of course, though as far as I can tell, that has not been a major news story.

Here is an example from the Post a year ago why DC voters might not care that much - 'The nation’s capital has a relationship with the federal government unlike any other jurisdiction in the United States. Residents of the city pay local taxes, but Congress has the power to tell the city how to spend its money; elected officials in Congress have often used this power to push their partisan policies, sometimes in opposition to the city’s liberal laws. That has been true with abortion and guns, and as Bowser noted, education.


“My fear in this arena is that they will continue to give back to the states the responsibility of education in every scenario except for the District of Columbia,” said D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), who chairs the council’s education committee. A new federal education law took power from Washington and shifted it to the states, and DeVos has indicated a strong desire to give states and localities more control.

Congress and the new federal administration probably will pursue an expansion of school choice policies, such as vouchers for private and parochial schools in the District, according to Lindsey Burke, the director of education policy at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Such a move would make the District — already a darling of choice advocates because of its charter sector, which educates nearly half of the public school students in the city — even more choice-heavy, probably with vouchers that could go to students other than just those from low-income families. The city’s current voucher program allows low-income families to take taxpayer dollars to the private schools of their choosing.

“Expanding the voucher system or expanding choice through an education voucher system would be great,” Burke said. “D.C. is under the jurisdiction of Congress at the end of the day. There are only a handful of measures at a federal level advancing school choice, and since D.C. is a federal city, that unique relationship makes it appropriate.”' <a href=""

Do note that the person advocating Congress overruling the voters of DC is a member of the Heritage Foundation, by the way, who is undoubtedly aware that DC voters are constitutionally forbidden from having a single voting member in Congress, and not only completely undisturbed by that complete lack of representation, but obviously counting on it to implement favored policy through taking advantage of that unique relationship.

Forget a single > and see what happens.

Not that I plan to test whether forgetting a closing b or i tag messes things up too.

I'm sure D.C. would have top-notch schools if Congress didn't keep stepping in to ensure they stay dysfunctional and fraud-ridden.

That's the point you are making here, right?

Nope, but better than AL, MS, WV, KS etc

The point is that DC suffers from a colonial mentality foisted and fostered by the very people who are always arguing, yelling and demanding local rights

"Congress have often used this power to push their partisan policies, sometimes in opposition to the city’s liberal laws. That has been true with abortion and guns, and as Bowser noted, education."

Not sure about abortion, and how it's different in DC, but, on guns, it was a judge that made them follow the constitution, and on school vouchers, it was Obama that cut them back when the residents wanted them.

So, no, no " opposition to the city’s liberal laws"

"Well, considering that Congress runs DC, why should they?"

Not really. Congress seldom intervenes anymore. A few hot button items only and most attempts fail.

State governments interfere much more with city government.

These are just more reasons on a long list of reasons why DC deserved to lose self-rule (Trayon White is following in the footsteps of Marion Barry). Reduce DC to its core federal buildings and let Maryland take the rest so that it can become Baltimore's twin hellhole (or new hipster hangout if you believe the hype).

Correct me if I'm wrong, but DC was never meant to be a city or state anyway, right? Seems to me that we're running into the inevitable problems resulting from trying to use a tin can as a hammer.

That was my first reaction. DC is the seat of government. It doesn't need and shouldn't have schools.

About 600,000 people live there.

It's a bug of scale, not a feature.

The geographic scale hasn't changed since 1844, when the portion south of the Potomac was ceded to Virginia. The district is smaller than it was when federal offices were transferred there in 1800.

As recently as 1950, 2/3 of the population of the metropolitan settlement - 800,000 people - lived within the District boundaries. A 'seat of government' consisting of just government office buildings has never existed.

You could retrocede the whole, and you should. The original concerns which prompted that particular provision are no longer valid.

It's not a hell-hole. The homicide rate is 1/2 of Baltimore City's and less than 1/4 of what it was 25 years ago. There's been a remarkable turnaround. The District as a whole is quite affluent. You still have a slum population though, and they're happy to consume sh!t sandwiches like Trayon White.

I'm rather surprised that someone would want to cart kids from Frederick into Washington DC, that's got to be an hour and a half to two hours in the morning.

Clockwork prior: Congress rarely interferes with the DC government (beyond the interference they do with the states in general), the biggest interference is clearly the commuter tax law (i.e. the DC government can't impose an income tax on non-residents), probably the second largest was the financial control board, currently in abeyance, but potentially could come back into force if the DC government's finances goes hog wild.

If DC residents were serious about getting the vote, rather than trying to get two additional Democrat senators, they'd be advocating for retrocession of most of DC back to Maryland (like has been done for the parts of DC that came from Virginia), a clearly Constitutional method, instead of trying to violate the Constitution or trying to pass an Amendment to the Constitution (very difficult).

'Congress rarely interferes with the DC government'

I used to work with someone at GMU whose husband was a staffer for a Congressman who just happened to be on the Committee on the District of Columbia (as I believe it was called back then). There is a lot that happened - back in the 1980s and early 1990s - that did not make the papers in a big way, because the fact that a Congressman expressed interest in something that he disagreed with at an early stage concerning DC, it would often not go much further. It wasn't as if a congressman need fear any political repercussions for whatever happened to DC, after all.

And as can be seen from this 2016 press release, at least one of those issues is now decades old - 'The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today announced that she and her congressional allies will offer amendments to remove the anti-home-rule riders from the fiscal year 2017 District of Columbia appropriations bill when it comes before the House this week. Norton will testify on her amendments at a Rules Committee hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at 5:00 p.m. There are currently three anti-home-rule riders in the bill—one repealing the Local Budget Autonomy Act of 2012 (BAA), the referendum overwhelmingly passed in 2013 by D.C. voters that granted the District budget autonomy, and two that block D.C. from spending its local funds, one on abortion services for low-income women, and another on taxing and regulating the sale of marijuana.


Some House Republicans had long been disguising their opposition to the budget autonomy referendum with legalistic arguments until the Speaker revealed the real reason on the day the House repealed the referendum. He said: “There are real consequences. The D.C. government wants to use revenues to fund abortions in the District. House Republicans will not stand for that.”'

That Congressman was a Republican, by the way, from a rural district. Congress interferes with DC whenever it wishes, and the public disputes are pretty much the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the members of the House Committee. Here is another 80s example, very much of that same perspective -'Conservative Christian evangelist Jerry Falwell announced yesterday that his Moral Majority lobby is asking Congress to veto a D.C. City Council-approved bill that removes most criminal penalties for homosexual acts and sodomy between consenting adults.

Calling the city sex bill "a perverted act about perverted acts," Falwell said the Moral Majority is supporting two separate congressional bills, either of which, if passed, would kill the new laws.

"I feel that D.C. home rule is good," Falwell said in announcing his group's opposition. "But home rule taken to the extent of legalizing what has previously been illegal and normalizing moral decadence is not."' And do note this part, because Congress is the reason for the change, so as to try to get the bill passed - "The bill's most controversial provision, liberalizing the age of consent for teen-aged sex, was eventually eliminated, but the bill still decriminalizes homosexual acts and sodomy between consenting adults, which Washington's gay community considered a victory."

'like has been done for the parts of DC that came from Virginia'

You are aware of the historical background for that retrocession, right? 'This disenfranchisement was made worse when it became known that the mayor and key members of D.C. municipal government would in fact be appointed by the president and Congress. Additionally, an amendment to the Residence Act in 1791 prohibited the construction of public buildings anywhere other than on the Maryland side of the Potomac River.[4] This had the effect of essentially keeping the Alexandria area of D.C. as rural farmland while the Maryland side would reap much of the commercial benefits of hosting the nation’s capital.

Alexandria could not compete with nearby Georgetown or other ports for widespread commercial traffic, but it did have a thriving commercial hub for the slave trade. This terrible fact was a blight on the nation’s capital in the eyes of abolitionists in the 1820s and 1830s. They recognized that removing slavery from the Southern states was a formidable task, but it was at least a hope that the slave trade could be abolished in the District.

A series of bills were proposed in Congress beginning in 1804 to return the Alexandria portion of D.C. to Virginia. There were several groups that supported the effort at various times, and while they did not have the same interests at heart, they did have the same final goal in mind.

Just as abolitionists wanted to kick Alexandria out of the District because of slavery, pro-slavery advocates from Virginia wanted the territory back because it would add two sympathetic representatives to the state assembly. Others advocated keeping Alexandria in the District for its potential military value, though the area remained notoriously undeveloped. The federal government had forty years to build a military base there and it never did.'

'a clearly Constitutional method'

In the case of Alexandria's retrocession, it seems to have been favored by both sides for their own reasons, and in that sense was mutual - and in terms of precedent, constitutional enough to pass historical muster. I am unaware of any major interest on the part of Maryland and Congress to retrocede most of DC back to Maryland. The amusing thing is that at this point, the federal government actually owns a fair bit of the land that was retroceded, including military facilities and a military cemetery.

"back in the 1980s and early 1990s "

Its much less now.

Your 2016 example, were those riders in the final bill? I assume not since you quote a pre-passage item but even if they were, two are the hot button variety.

Three riders a year are hardly Congress running DC.

Slate Star Codex has a couple of good posts on this. Likely a combination of DC clamping down on gaming the system plus particularly punitive approach to absence (which is often just lateness).

Well that looks like an entirely predictable and totally expected series of reasons for failure. I note Marion Barry and the corrupt culture of the Democratic Party. But also:

6: A majority of students in my school and many others live in single parent households.

That writer is, of course, just making excuses and spinning a bad story in such a way that it will appeal to White middle class liberals. But whatever works for him. This is something we can do something about - make divorce harder.

You think any of them were married in the first place?

We definitely can make having children without a husband while on welfare harder. In fact there is no case for not doing so.

"This is something we can do something about - make divorce harder."
Because, if parents are forced to stay together, those homes will then achieve the balance and domestic bliss children need to excel. It is how it works. There was nothing wrong with those families before the judge showed up.

America should make burials harder. I have noticed that, in Western cultures, death and burials are closely related.

Fallacy of the excluded middle? Families headed towards divorce undoubtedly have problems before the divorce, but it does not follow that those problems are mitigated or are not replaced by even worse problems after divorce.

(This may be moot, though. As is mentioned above, it is doubtful that there were marriages or nuclear families in most of the cases we would be talking about.)

"Fallacy of the excluded middle?"
No, realism. Yeah, some of those divorces may have happened over a whim. Most of those families, though, are not broken because the parents divorced. The parents (if ever married) divorced because their families are broken. Why pretend otherwise?

Thiago Ribeiro - April 24, 2018 at 9:13 am 21

Not doing a good job of pretending you are Brazilian today Thiago.

Because, if parents are forced to stay together, those homes will then achieve the balance and domestic bliss children need to excel. It is how it works. There was nothing wrong with those families before the judge showed up.

Not for all cases but for a reasonable number of them, yes. Most marriages fail for fairly trivial reasons and often for reasons that are only a passing phase. Once both sides realize they are old and fat and no one else will want them, they tend to settle down into domestic bliss.

But more importantly, when we trivialize marriage, people are more likely to enter into it for trivial reasons. Which leads to more divorce. If divorce was harder, it would be taken more seriously - as it was in the past.

American problems impress me almost as much as Brazilian qualities. Seriously, I can not imagine how mismanaged a country must be for people to consider marriage trivial.

"But more importantly, when we trivialize marriage, people are more likely to enter into it for trivial reasons"
I am sure those guys will just stop having problem children, right? It probably will just make the illegitimacy problem worse. People will harder before marrying, nit before having babies.


Here is the original post from SSC:

I recommend reading it and the "highlights from the comments" posted by Michael (but especially the highlights).

Just think how bad other schools must be that you would want to sneak your child into the Washington DC system?

This is the electorate that voted Fenty out because he put Michelle Rhee into office to improve the education system. Which goes to another point - smart Asian Americans, like other smart North East liberals, often come to education policy assuming that all Black children are just like them - geeky, hard working, determined to succeed.

But some how no policy change moves the needle one little bit.

Well, like all cities, there are good parts and bad parts.

Are you saying D.C. doesn't fund it's schools equitably?

The alternate explanation is parents are idiots and completely incapable of rational decisions on what school is best for their kids.

DeVos thinks Kaya Henderson should be able to put her kids in a criminal enterprise school because "choice" is always better, not better schools.

Are DC schools worth fighting to get into? I mean, if Howard University offered free tuition to class valedictorians, would anybody accept the offer?

Sorry but to me this is a non-story. Keep in mind a lot of inner city schools, from what I've heard, award good grades based on class attendance. Attend every class, and you get an "A". Since education is largely signaling, this is no big loss to society anyway, and it does keep the kids off the streets and out of trouble.

Bonus trivia: I saw the legacy of Marrion Barry on a T-shirt here in the Philippines, that even my hot young half-my-age gf wears: "Better, not bitter" (after Barry's remark doing time in jail).

Maybe you should consider the possibility that the parents sneaking their kids in know something you sitting in your armchair don't....

Keep in mind a lot of inner city schools, from what I've heard, award good grades based on class attendance. Attend every class, and you get an "A". Since education is largely signaling, this is no big loss to society anyway,

People are worried about it messing up the signal.

That ship has sailed.

Parents care. They're interacting outside the mass media, directly, with councilmembers. Councilmember Charles Allen is a lead on collecting input. If Petula is someday blessed with children, she'll interact with some of the relevant social groups and see for herself.

Do they care? What is the evidence for that?

Michelle Rhee tried to improve DC's schools by firing bad teachers. The parents turned on her. Because they did not value education above the nice comfortable middle class jobs way above their proper pay grade that the school system provided.

Revealed preferences. If parents cared about education they would support vouchers.

Please see above.

I was a fan of Rhee's. I think you are connecting lines that don't necessarily intersect, SMFS. Or atleast a conclusion that takes a minor go on a trampoline. It wasn't that parents didn't value education. The majority of outspoken Rhee critics were African American. And the teachers being summarily put on notice, were also African American. As an African American, watching this unfold in real time at churches and community meetings was really a site to behold. I'm a mother and send my son to private school. I wanted the system to change so I could support public schools, but DC is a lot of "I've been doing this for 25 years"-- and I'm sure at some point they were effective educations. But by year 10, they generally just master 'managing up'. So I watched, with a broken heart and great interest, how the ousted teachers got entire communities of grandparents and aunts and uncles, and finallyl parents to rally behind them-- this asian outsider could not just waltz in and fire teachers who have been failing at their jobs-- for decades mind you. If Michelle Rhee had been Black-- they would have received the message a little differently. But they couldn't hear her. All the heard was, "This black teacher is a failure." and "these black kids need better than this"-- which just doesn't sit well. They value education. But it was like being served kobe beef on a garbage pail lid -- they couldn't receive it that way.

I am sorry but aren't you just agreeing with me only with extra helpings of racial resentment? We are agreed that the school system provided good jobs for African Americans. And that the voters put those jobs above the welfare of the African American children in the system.

Only you say that they resented the way a Woman of Color went about it. As if that made things better. Rhee was hardly the face of racial oppression.

Some parents care about schooling and some parents care about other things.

Andrew Greeley once said that he got 12 letters of complaint for every letter of praise in regard to his non-fiction works. People are motivated by what irritates them. The problem you had in DC was that a critical mass of people were irritated by Fenty / Rhee. It's a reasonable wager this amounted to roughly a quarter of the electorate and half the black electorate. Some people prefer a simulacrum of achievement to the real thing.

"Parents care."


Its a minority though. Most of the mothers are too busy with life and most of the fathers are absent.

Stop trifling.

The majority of DC students have two parents who are involved and care. It is a big city with varied issues and not applicable to these sorts of gross (and questionable) generalizations.

Michelle Rhee was not canned because she tried to improve education and fire bad teachers (which, considering her current reputation and what we now know about her role in Kevin Johnson's many many misdeeds, should have been obvious).

The majority of DC students have two parents who are involved and care.

OK, 50.1% of youngsters enrolled in the District schools are at least receiving child-support from their sire.

Stay ignorant for all i care, but, yall prove the point. DC is the only place in the country where a bunch of no nothing holier than thou hypocrites feel emboldened enough to constantly meddle in our local affairs. That this is done in order to further their own broader political purposes, and dispenses with even the pretense of pretending to bother with learning anything about the underlying context, continues the vicious circle.

DCPS has high achieving schools and low achieving schools but most of them are just average. Exactly like the rest of the world. Surprise surprise

Per the Census Bureau, in-tact and 'blended' families account for 52% of the households with children in the District. The District schools enroll 48,000 students, or about 60% of the school-age youngsters in DC. Do you fancy students homeschooled or enrolled in private schools are more likely or less likely to be living under the supervision of a married couple?

Your city has total dysfunction. If it weren't for the constant expenditure of mass federal dollars, you would recede back in to the swamp.

No it doesnt. It's definitely got its issues but clearly you know nothing Tom Snow.

The District and the commuter-belt in general are fairly affluent, and more than 3/4 of the value-added therein is generated outside the public sector.

Like a great many places, it has a slum population and there are a great many lumpenproletarians living in and among the impecunious working people in those slums. The District addresses the problems generated by lowlifes better than it once did, but it is still not making the grade due (indubitably) to vested interests, social ideology, and vernacular culture.

When affluence and poverty share the same geography, affluence seldom raises poverty up, even if many politicians and their patrons make a great show that it does. Indeed, companies seeking tax breaks from state and local governments go to great lengths to avoid transparency, often using third parties such as the Chamber of Commerce to submit proposals for the tax breaks. Often the biggest losers are the school districts, which lose revenues without any input from the schools. "Dark money" not only funds many political campaigns but also the quest for tax breaks handed out to business interests, thereby avoiding transparency and shielding the business interests from having to reveal what they prefer to keep in the dark. When schools suffer from the lost revenues, the same business interests then blame the schools, and thereby cause the schools to suffer loss of public support and further eroding the schools. For the children!

Washington DC is something like the third most expensive school system in America. Only behind those other notoriously incompetent school districts, New York and Baltimore.

So no, there is not a problem with funding. If only there was some other factor that united Washington DC, New York's public schools and Baltimore!

Articles such as this one linked by Cowen are intended to draw attention away from the teacher walkouts across the country and to management problems within particular school districts. The teacher walkouts and the public support they are receiving have alarmed conservatives because they are part of the great awakening among activists, particularly among women. "Public schools" is simply a dog whistle, historically an effective dog whistle among some but not all.

Rayward, Your comment has merit except for two facts. One, the businesses of Washington, DC are two main blocs: the Federal government and large corporations selling to and providing services to the Federal government. Two, not only businesses want to minimize tax liabilities, also old guys like me who consistently vote "NO" on school budgets. Then, the PTA gets out to vote all the school parents and budgets pass.

Value-added in the Washington commuter belt is apportioned as follows:

Professional and business services: 22.5%
Government: 22.5%
Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate: 21%
Health Care and Social Assistance: 5%
Arts, Entertainment, Recreation, and Food Service: 3.5%
Wholesale Trade: 3%
Education: 1.5%
Undifferentiated: 21%

N.B. any service provided by a public agency is included under the rubric of 'government', including primary and secondary schooling.

Does anyone have the Washington Post article mentioned in this SlateStarCodex comment?

MrApophenia says:
April 11, 2018 at 2:40 pm ~new~
A few years back, the Washington Post did a really in depth analysis of why it was so broken. (Sadly, with Google being totally swamped by the current scandal, I was unable to find a link.)

The 1960's, DC had some of the best urban schools in the country ....[and] didn’t have home rule. In 1971, ... Marion Barry got elected ... [and] the whole enterprise basically descended into naked corruption.

Marion Barry was the mayor from 1978 to 1990 and 1994-1998. His freedom of action was quite constrained during his last term by a financial trusteeship. DC had some fine schools when my mother was enrolled there (1945-48), but I doubt they were much good by 1975. My schoolteacher aunt lasted about 2 years in DC before decamping to Fairfax County in 1962.

Such is life in America. I can not inagine Brazilian public officers betraying the people's trust that way.

Wikipedia: In June 2017 Temer's approval rating stood at 7%, the lowest for any president in more than thirty years.[70] DataPoder 360 released a poll 21 June which was conducted 19–21 June and showed an approval rating of 2%.[73] In a survey conducted by the IBOPE institute between 24 and 26 July 81% of Brazilians favored the indictment of the President.[74] On 2 August, lawmakers in the lower house in Congress voted not to refer the case against the scandal-plagued President to the supreme court, which has the power to try him. Observers and the population state that the move to shield Temer only further undermines the credibility of Brazil's political and electoral system."

The point is, there was not enough evidence to prosecute the president. Evidently, mistakes have been commited and some failings in gkvernment business must be frankly addressed. But it would be a mistake to believe there is a state of complete moral disrepair as it is the case in America. In Brazil, the situation is under control and the democratic institutions proved to be working at full blast. Mr. Trump promised to jail Mrs. Clinton. Nothing came out of it yet. Meanwhile, former president and kingmaker Mr. Lula has been jailed. President Temer has vouched to punish harshly all the evil-doers, no matter how high may be their social standing. As we say in Brazil, "no matter how highly placed you ay be, the Law is still above you".

The fact is that the system in Brazil is workinh and the corruption is being dealt with swiftly and seriously. We are not like America that lets criminals off the hook like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. The problem is being fixed and a glorious future beckons. Brazil will rise like a lion and crush the serpemt with its heel, as the Prophet Bandarra has written.

"more than 900 students — a third of the capital’s entire graduating class — were not eligible for the diplomas they were given."

This sentence is used to show that there is a high fraud level. What it also shows is how many kids don't make it to their senior year of high school. DC is not small, and the dropout rate is super high for there to be only 2,700 seniors in all of the DC public schools.

I thought the same. Apparently D.C. graduates fewer students than Salem Oregon as far as public schools go.

Congress can institute reforms to repair these problems. Congress will do nothing, of course. Congress does nothing about anything. The House will help constituents with problems they have with federal agencies. The Senate feeds bon bons to donors.

You want to fix this problem, you should erect a school system which serves the variety of goals parents have. A few parents are concerned with academic performance for its own sake, a larger constituency is concerned with academic performance as a prelude to arranging for occupational schooling at the tertiary level, a small constituency is concerned with vocational training at the secondary level, a large constituency is complacent about performance but wants their children away from bullies and street drugs, and another constituency is completely indifferent, and another constituency which gets their panties in a wad when they fancy that they (or their lousy children) are not being treated with R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Using a quasi-monopolistic state agency as a delivery vehicle is about the most inapposite way to tailor educational programmes to this variety of constituencies.

That aside, the training of teachers and administrators is commonly inapposite even when it doesn't reduce the quality of the applicant pool, workplaces are unionized so the tendency of public agencies to be run for the convenience of their employees is exacerbated, and the social ideology of schools of education manifest in administrators and school psychologists militates against fixed standards of conduct even when they're not being harassed by our repulsive 'public interest bar'.

And then there is the learned helplessness. Residency fraud? Impose a modest income tax on DC residents and insist they show their tax returns and rental agreements. Cheating? Have the board of regents hire their own proctors and clear the teachers (and salient administrative personnel) out of the school on the day examinations are given.


ArtDeco: "You want to fix this problem, you should erect a school system which serves the variety of goals parents have."

... glad to see you now advocate full parental choice and a free market in K-12 education.

DC government schools are a mess because the DC government is a permanent corrupt mess. And government schools generally are a mess across the nation. The government should have absolutely NOTHING to do with education.

County governments should issue vouchers redeemable by schools which do not charge tuition. If parents wish to home school or send their children to a tuition-charging school, they can cash-out the voucher for a fraction of it's face value. The fraction would be calculated according to a formula making use of the parents' direct tax payments and the number of school-age children they have as arguments.

State governments should administer regents examinations for quality control, and the attorney-general should have a franchise to petition the courts to close the worst-performing schools.

This all seems sensible to me.

In a place where the public schools are functioning well, there would be a strong argument against doing something this disruptive to the school system. But the DC school system is a huge mess, so major redesign seems entirely sensible.

There are broadly two ways this can work out (though probably reality will be a mix of them):

a. Given the existing problems of DCPS students (messed up parents, low IQs, lousy upbringing and environment) no school system can really help much. In this case, we end up about where we were before, but maybe with parents happier and the best-behaved and smartest kids saved from nightmarishly bad schools.

b. Despite all those problems, the school system can make some huge difference in outcomes. In this case, we end up in a much better place, with kids performing better as a result of getting out of better schools.

Given the state of most of the urban schools, i have long believed it’s an egregious moral and practical failure to adopt school choice there so that the kids and parents at least have the opportunity to self triage into schools where they might have a chance. Of course, you would have to allow the schools to actually be schools, and to expel the unwilling and unable. It might be possible to salvage at least some of the kids.

Salvage? Most inner-city Tyrones will eventually settle into low-grade service employment. The name of the game is to economize on their time and (one might hope) reduce the frictional costs along the way and perhaps craft a social economy where fewer people do that sort of work all their life and more do so for periods of time 'ere graduating to semi-skilled trades.

Re whether this is a “major news story,” Petula Dvorak had to write that column because the Post’s education writer, Valerie Strauss, is too busy preventing democracy from dying in darkness to cover it. Her most recent tweet: “A professor’s disturbing story about the influence of the Koch network in higher education.”

Half a shot for every use of 'Koch' and a full shot for every use of 'Koch Brothers' or 'Kochtopus'.

The only issue I've ever seen with the Koch Brothers is that they expect results for money spent. Scares the hell out of a lot of people.

Did they get the booming economy in Kansas their money bought in Kansas?

In fact, given they have supported the GOP takeover of the States that elected Trump based on Trump telling voters they have been screwed over by politicians, ie, the conservatives the Koch helped takeover Trump electing States, is income decline for each new generation of workers the real Koch objective?

Tyler, thank you for posting that. I hadn't heard about it.

Which isn't surprising. Why should Dem-controlled news outlets make a fuss about Dem-controlled school systems committing widespread fraud in America's most Dem-controlled city? Why would the WaPo ever mention this?

As the article makes clear, the takeaway here is supposed to be "voters don't value education." Uh-huh. Funneling more money into a disastrous system is indeed always the answer.

Voters value a half-dozen different things and make trade-offs among their available options. The problem would be that their options are pointlessly constricted to please insider constituencies (or just because of sheer inertia).

"Which isn't surprising. Why should Dem-controlled news outlets make a fuss about Dem-controlled school systems committing widespread fraud in America's most Dem-controlled city? Why would the WaPo ever mention this?"
Yep, your ignorance is everyone's else fault. Have tou studied in Washington?
If you don't like the Post, you can watch FOX or read the Washington Times.

Hannity should know. I think he has about 80 houses there.

Let's see how well Washington DC compares to a Republican governed state for those believe that denying home rule is the solution:

" An evaluation of school performance finds that Mississippi's academic achievement gains have outstripped gains nationwide from 2003 to 2015, but gives the state's public schools a D overall, ranking them second-to-last.

#The evaluation by Education Week's Quality Counts report moved Mississippi up a notch from last year, when it ranked 51st among the states and Washington, D.C. This year, Nevada ranked at the bottom, a little below Mississippi. The state's overall grade remained the same, below the national average of a C."

Here is the link:

>Add to that the bombshell last week that the school system is full of residency fraud

Silly question. Why are they doing this? Wouldn't you rather have your kids in Maryland/Virginia public schools?

This might, in general, be true, but I will note that the story didn't tell you from which schools the non-resident students came, and did not tell you to which schools in D.C. they entered. It is entirely possible that the students moved over the border to attend the very best and selective magnet schools in D.C. I imagine that D.C. like most school districts have such schools for the most talented of students in the district. The person specifically mentioned probably brought her kids to the one public school in the district that is under 25% black students.

Well, the article did mention a few. Woodrow Wilson High is top 3% if you believe USN&WR

Very first complaint about textbooks is silly:

> From the ragged, outdated textbooks that striking teachers in Oklahoma have been posting online — some list George W. Bush as the current president

Well, yeah. There's no need to update expensive books every time there's a new president.

And considering that the Bush book gives students the gaping opportunity to think, "Hey, wait a minute. . . " and check the publication date in the front cover, perhaps it does a better job of educating students than something 'current'.

Education is, after all, training people to function on their own, not telling them what to think.

I scanned the comments, and only two commenters caught the thing that most drew my attention- that the district had fewer than 3000 graduating seniors for a population of 600K. I am guessing less than half the the students make it that far.

Well here is DC Public Schools Enrollment information. I was curious about the enrollment bump at ninth grade, apparently Fairfax County schools also sees such a bump, perhaps a number of private schools only cover up to high school. However, since this covers six years, you can see that the class size shrinks more than 40% from freshman to seniors in each of the past three years. And then 30-60% fail to graduate!

There are about 80,000 school age youths in the District, so the mean cohort is just north of 6,000. That would suggest about 1/2 receive a diploma from the DC schools and x% from private academies somewhere within commuting distance.

You can have a graduation rate of 100% if you simply eliminate requirements. The question at hand is what sort of skills would you expect someone with that sheepskin to have. That's the problem with secondary schooling in this country. Indicators of achievement are opaque.

It would have been nice to have a breakdown of the D.C. sectors. Northwest D.C. is more affluent, educated, professional, and has greater concentrations of Caucasians, Asians, and Hispanics.
Overwhelming majorities of Baltimore City graduates apparently are unable to pass the Maryland minimum test levels in English and Math. Earlier articles have attributed poorer employment results when those graduates are compared to their peers...and the students then realize the lack of a quality education.
Graduation levels, test results, and youth employment are reputed to have been better pre-1970 according to research by authors Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams.

US News & World Report actually lists five Washington DC public high schools in their best high schools listing, one in the top 1% and the other four in the top 10%, which seems pretty good given there are about 20 public high schools in DC (on the other hand, these rankings are based on reported statistics which perhaps is misleading...). All but one of these top schools are in the wealthier northwest quadrant of DC.

In those listings, 7 of the 10 Frederick County Public Schools high schools are in the top 10%. There does not appear to be any choice which FCPS high school you go to, it just depends on your home address.

The number 1 school on the list seems pretty good. But the second best school is not very good. I don't see how it ranks in the top 10% when it is has a math proficiency of 8%.

That does seem pitiful.

Their methodology seems to adjust for the percentage of economically disadvantaged students and percentage of non-Asian minority students. So while 8% is terrible, with 75% minority student body (probably almost all NAM) and 100% economically disadvantaged student body, that might not be too far off expected performance for those demographics. And 54% AP passed with those demographics is actually quite good.

The schools are so bad that people commit residency fraud to attend them. OK.

The reason there are only ~2200 seniors in the system is dropouts and because there are a lot of single people without kids living in DC. Neither those single people nor retired people tend to care much about education issues. They are simply tending after their self-interest like they've been taught to do by economic ideologues.

Many school districts allow the children of staff to attend schools in the district as an employee perk. Keep in mind that most educators start their day well before 8 a.m., so child care drop-offs in one place, school drop-offs in another place, and getting to one's own place of business is a logistical nightmare. Maybe DC doesn't have this in their employment contracts but it isn't an outrage.

Maybe this was covered in the comments already but something seems fishy about a story claiming DC schools are so bad 1/3 of graduates failed to meet degree requirements AND there's huge numbers of parents lying about their home addresses so their kids could go to DC schools?

Everybody seem to be ganging up against DC whose mistake seems to be that the graduation rate was being audited. The relevant focus could be somewhere else. With the 2015 state graduation rates and the NAEP 2015 G8 reading scores as the proxy, the data seemed to be suggesting that the relationship between graduation rates and the g8read scores seemed to be statistically very significant, i.e. among the states there seemed to be statistically a consensus on the graduation rates with respect to the quality of the students. The areas to be checked are those datapoints which are the extreme positive outliers > +2 SEest from the regression line. Among the state datapoints, the condition for DC did not seem to be that extreme. In fact relatively DC had depressed the graduation rate with respect to the overall consensus.

GradRate15 = +0.513004*G8Read2015 -52.7729; #n=51; Rsq=0.2962; p=3.658e-05 *** (VV Sig)

resi/SEest residual E(GradRate) GradRate G8Read State

+2.03 +9.03 79.97 89 258.75 AL <--

+1.81 +8.06 80.94 89 260.66 TX <--

-1.18 -5.27 74.27 69 247.65 DC

-2.09 -9.31 80.31 71 259.42 NV

-2.36 -10.5 84.54 74 267.67 OR

looks like enough failing schools around the США been defined as failing and taken over by the reformers to have enough data to see if
taking over the schools is a good idea or a bad idea

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