- D.C. Mayor's Race 2010,
- DCision 2010 Edumacation Kids Are Political Pawns Series of Special Fact Checks,
When it comes to education reform in the District, presumptive D.C. mayor-elect Vince Gray and public schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee are only trying to do what’s best for the children. Or the teachers union. Or the D.C. Council. Or themselves.
But mostly the children. Or so they say.
"Yesterday's election results were devastating, devastating,” said Rhee, when asked about the Gray's victory after the Democratic primary in September (she later clarified her remarks.) ”Not for me, because I'll be fine, and not even for Fenty because he'll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C."
Gray, speaking during in the wake of his primary win, said: “I want to do what is best for the children of our city.”
His spokeswoman bemoaned the suffering of the children, who were probably keeping close tabs on this year’s contest, in between swapping Silly Bandz and mourning the loss of their chocolate milk.
"It is unfortunate that the children have been thrown in the middle the political fray," spokeswoman Traci Hughes said. "Chairman Gray has made it very clear from the very beginning: He will continue education reform. It's his top priority already and he will put children first.”
Now lame-duck Mayor Adrian Fenty championed Rhee on the campaign trail this year, praising her often controversial moves in the D.C. schools. Gray didn’t appear sold on the lightning rod of a chancellor, instead saying he’d wait until after the election to make a decision on whether to keep Rhee at her post.
The two didn’t seem that chummy when Gray was on the council, either, and not all those spats seemed to be entirely focused on the children. It was more about control, transparency and oversight when Gray and Rhee butted heads for years over budget issues or teacher layoffs. And wasn't it about the instructors when Gray was endorsed by the Washington Teachers Union? What about when Rhee suggested that she couldn’t work in an administration that wasn’t as supportive as Fenty’s? That was about politics. And it’s about politics now, as Gray searches for a chancellor that he can happily work with, and Rhee looks for the same in a new boss.
Here is what’s at stake right now, besides the fate of the children: the careers of hundreds of teachers, whose contract was recently ratified. Possibly money from private foundations, or federal funding that the District won with a Race to the Top grant, which carries some Rhee-related requirements. And, some have argued, the future of education reform as a whole.
These kinds of decisions can’t just be based on what is best for the children. It’s much more complicated than that.
Surely both Rhee and Gray care deeply about the fate of D.C. Public Schools students. Neither would hold his or her position if that wasn’t true. But education reform is never just all about the kids. It can’t be, really. It’s a messy process that involves so many problems — like these issues of mayoral control, power struggles, and contractual bargaining.
So while the children certainly do factor into the equation, it is probably OK to leave them out of the fight for now. To suggest that either candidate is only doing what's best for them, at this point, is just Total Malarkey.