OPEN LETTER TO THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA EMERGENCY TRANSITIONAL EDUCATION BOARD OF TRUSTEES

For Immediate Release Contact: Jim Campi
april  8, 1997                      (202) 467-5300

 

As an organization dedicated to eliminating wasteful government, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is shocked that the District of Columbia Emergency Education Board of Trustees, which is supposed to be improving the efficiency of the D.C. public school system, is including several rare examples of success on its public school closing list, such as Patterson Elementary School in Southeast and Hearst Elementary School in Cleveland Park.  Taxpayers are also more than getting their money’s worth from the Peabody Early Childhood Center in Northeast, part of the Cluster School Campus on Capitol Hill.

Everyone agrees that D.C. has too many schools.  But in placing Peabody, Patterson, and Hearst on its closing list, the emergency board of trustees is overlooking vital information about each school.  For example, the trustees may not be aware of these facts about Peabody.

 First, the $4.3 million in revenue estimated from the proposed “sale” of Peabody is vastly inflated and not based on any professional appraisal.  Second, there are several empty school buildings on Capitol Hill now.  There is no guarantee Peabody will ever be sold, which will leave the community with an eyesore and the trustees with a black eye.  Third, the school has what the trustees should be cloning all over Washington – strong parent and community involvement; a fully integrated population; a charter school-within-a-school; an early childhood education program that is the subject of national attention and praise; and above-average attendance and graduation rates for those that move forward in the cluster school system and beyond.

 Fourth, Peabody, and the two other cluster schools on Capitol Hill, provide a safe haven for children, who can concentrate on education without worrying about crime in or around the schools.  This eliminates the expense of security guards and metal detectors that are unfortunately necessary in other D.C. schools.  Fifth, in a city which is losing population and its tax base, the cluster schools, beginning with Peabody, are a magnet for families who want to move to and stay on Capitol Hill.  Finally, by not considering performance measures and instead focusing on numbers, the trustees are putting bricks and mortar before children.  If the trustees’ objective is to make D.C. schools a success, they are not doing their job if Peabody stays on the closing list.

CAGW spends a great deal of time trying to help fix what is broken by pointing out egregious examples of waste, publicizing them, and providing solutions to our 600,000 members, the national media, and elected officials in Washington.  This often frustrating battle gets even more so when government tries to fix something that is not broken and creates additional waste and inefficiency.  Such would be the case if the Board of Trustees closed Peabody, Hearst, or Patterson.  The trustees can avoid public embarrassment if they simply review the facts, conclude that the original list was in error, and reward innovation and choice in the public school system by removing Peabody – and other successful schools – from their school closing plan.

 

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