Chavous gives vot­ers some­thing to chew on

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS

D.C. Coun­cil can­di­date Kevin B. Chavous made some in­ter­est­ing com­ments Tues­day morn­ing on his way to an­other day of cam­paign­ing.

“I think we need to con­sider par­ent unions, or par­ent trig­gers, as part of the D.C. school re­form mech­a­nisms,” said Mr. Chavous, who sipped cof­fee and water at a break­fast meet­ing as I chowed a short stack and bowl of grits (with cheese, thank you very much).

He pointed out that sev­eral states, in­clud­ing the king of the left-coast lean­ers, Cal­i­for­nia, and law­mak­ers and par­ents in some other states are push­ing such game-chang­ing rules of en­gage­ment to not only re­form schools but to fully en­gage par­ents in their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion.

Cal­i­for­nia’s first-in-the-na­tion law grants prac­ti­cal and un­par­al­leled rights to par­ents who can pe­ti­tion changes in staffing, man­age­ment and even pro­grams in their chil­dren’s low-per­form­ing schools. All of those as­pects of parental au­thor­ity were ig­nored in Pres­i­dent Obama’s pro­posed El­e­men­tary and Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion Act and for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s No Child Left Be­hind Act.

The Cal­i­for­nia law goes still fur­ther, en­cour­ag­ing par­ents of a tar­geted school and the cam­puses that feed into them to ex­er­cise such op­tions as con­ver­sion to a char­ter school or clo­sure of the school.

Gov. Bobby Jin­dal of Louisiana, where post-ka­t­rina public school­ing was res­ur­rected by char­ter schools, en­dorses par­ent trig­gers. And Florida law­mak­ers are in the throes of ap­prov­ing such a bill this week.

Mr. Chavous — who is try­ing to re­cap­ture a seat for­merly held by his fa­ther, Kevin Chavous (a lawyer, au­thor and na­tion­ally rec­og­nized school re­form ex­pert) — said parental in­volve­ment is per­haps the sin­gle most im­por­tant com­po­nent miss­ing in the ed­u­ca­tion es­tab­lish­ment’s de­ci­sion­mak­ing process, es­pe­cially when the schools are low-per­form­ing and their stu­dents are low achiev­ing.

“We should be en­cour­ag­ing parental en­gage­ment and parental in­ter­ven­tion ev­ery step of the way and not merely when a school is trou­bled aca­dem­i­cally or a child has poor grades or dis­ci­pline prob­lems,” said Mr. Chavous, a 27-year-old Demo­crat try­ing to un­seat in­cum­bent Yvette M. Alexan­der in the Ward 7 coun­cil race.

Some par­ents said D.C. school au­thor­i­ties sim­ply do not want par­ents in tra­di­tional public schools.

“DCPS doesn’t even wel­come par­ents,” a mom af­fil­i­ated with Bur­roughs El­e­men­tary said Tues­day evening at the Ward 5 Ed­u­ca­tion Coun­cil meet­ing. DCPS doesn’t re­quire parental in­volve­ment, en­cour­age par­ents or en­tice par­ents.”

That sounds about right.

Lord knows D.C. of­fi­cials need to pull the trig­ger on par­ents, too many of whom are M.I.A. when it comes to their own chil­dren’s school­ing — un­less some­thing goes ter­ri­bly awry, like an act of vi­o­lence or some other trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence.

In­deed, par­ents who at­tended the meet­ing were asked to sug­gest ways to urge par­ent at­ten­dance for an up­com­ing meet­ing of the Gray ad­min­is­tra­tion, in which school clos­ings and bud­get­ing will be aired. I sus­pect even the lik­able public schools Chan­cel­lor Kaya Hen­der­son and char­ter­school friendly De’shawn Wright, Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray’s go-to man on ed­u­ca­tion, won’t get a free pass at this meet­ing.

Satur­day’s child

All eyes will again be cast upon Ward 5 on Satur­day when a half­hearted at­tempt at a can­di­dates’ de­bate is sched­uled to be held on the cam­pus of Catholic Univer­sity.

I say half­hearted be­cause while more than a dozen can­di­dates are of­fi­cially in the run­ning for the open coun­cil seat, vot­ers and other in­ter­ested par­ties will hear from only five, the lone Re­pub­li­can and four Democrats, be­cause the League of Women Vot­ers and other movers and shak­ers spon­sor­ing the de­bate said they wanted a de­bate not a forum.

Loud is the re­ac­tion of res­i­dents, many of whom are plan­ning a boy­cott of the de­bate, say­ing the weed­ing out of even mi­nor can­di­dates was un­demo­cratic — and how right they are.

Each of the five can­di­dates se­lected to speak, as well as those who didn’t make the league’s list, has some­thing to of­fer.

More­over, WTOP’S Mark Se­graves, one of the hard­est-work­ing re­porters in the Washington re­gion, is an adroit jour­nal­ist who as moder­a­tor could have han­dled a much larger group with his mi­cro­phone on mute and his right hand tied be­hind his back.

BARABARA L. SAL­IS­BURY/THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Ana Gar­cia of Wood­bridge, Va., hands her new­born daugh­ter, Jose­line Lopez Gar­cia, to fa­ther Elias Lopez on Wed­nes­day at Virginia Hospi­tal Cen­ter in Ar­ling­ton. They said they didn’t re­al­ize that their ce­sarean sec­tion was sched­uled on a spe­cial day — leap day — and that they will do some­thing big ev­ery four years to cel­e­brate Jose­line’s of­fi­cial birth­day.

ROD LAMKEY JR/THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Prince Ge­orge’s County FIRE/EMS Chief Marc S. Bashoor (right) lis­tens Wed­nes­day as David Che­p­lak, public in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for the Bal­ti­more field di­vi­sion of the Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco and Firearms, speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence.

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