Mayor’s Statement on DC School Choice Initiatives

Published June 1, 2003

“For too many years, District government officials have struggled to make improvements to our school system. Despite an infusion of local funding over the past four years, we have not seen the kinds of improvements that we had hoped to see. The challenges faced by our educators are significant and longstanding.

“Parents, students, and concerned citizens are calling on our city leaders to come together to make improving our children’s education our highest priority. I remain committed to working with all parties to help us in this effort. To that end, I have been working with Board of Education President Peggy Cooper Cafritz and Councilman Kevin Chavous to develop a means for the federal government to bolster its support of our education system. In that spirit, I welcome the Bush administration’s support for our efforts.

“We are working closely with all parties to seize this landmark opportunity for the federal government to address the serious needs of our public schools and our public charter schools and to provide scholarships for some students to attend nonpublic independent and parochial schools. This is about helping all of our children wherever they go to school.

“We need additional resources to help our successful charter schools address their facilities concerns and provide the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) with a permanent funding stream to help meet the state and local costs borne by our school system. In addressing our burden of state-level costs, the federal government will help us redirect local revenues towards the important reforms that are underway in DCPS. We must seek every opportunity to do what is best for our children and join forces with educators in private and parochial, regular public, and charter schools as well as supporters at all levels of government.

“Let me be very clear in saying that, to be fully successful, any federally funded program that provides scholarships for private schools must be balanced with direct assistance to DCPS and with additional funding for charter schools in the District.

“I recognize that there will be vocal opponents to this ‘three sector approach,’ but I believe that we can find common ground on the need to increase funding for our public school system, continue the expansion of our best-in-the-nation charter school system, increase choices for parents on where to educate their children, and oppose efforts in the Congress to impose a vouchers-only program on the District.”

Anthony Williams is mayor of Washington, DC.