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Pace Of D.C. School Reform The Subject Of Contention

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Reforms called for by Councilmember David Catania are meeting some resistance from within DCPS.
Reforms called for by Councilmember David Catania are meeting some resistance from within DCPS.

In the District, the pace of school reform — and the role the D.C. Council should play in it — is sparking debate at city hall.

From the perspective of Councilmember David Catania's as head of the education committee, school reform isn't happening fast enough.

"I reject the notion that parents should be patient while their government stays the course," Catania says.

Since the council approved legislation in 2007 giving authority over schools to the mayor and then-chancellor Michelle Rhee, council members have largely played a hands-off role in education policy. That's changed under Catania, who became education chair this year.

With the help of a private law firm, Catania crafted a package of education reform proposals that tackle some of the District's biggest issues: charter schools, funding formulas, social promotion.

The legislation sparked conflict with the mayor and current schools chancellor Kaya Henderson, who testified about the proposals yesterday.

"I'm not saying what we are doing is perfect," Henderson said. "What I am saying is we have put some very important pieces in place, and just like seeds, you plant them in the ground, you gotta water them, give them sunlight, and you have to wait for them to grow. And what I don't want to do is undo the seed planting that we've done."

More hearings are planned and Henderson pledged to work with Catania on some parts of the legislation, but the discussion over how involved the council should be in education policy is just getting started.

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