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How Colorism Subjugates Dark-Skinned Black Women

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 13:50

Colorism, also known as shadeism, is discriminatory actions or comments based on a person’s skin color, tone or pigmentation. When you are told you are pretty for a dark-skinned girl that is colorism.  Colorism is not often seen as an issue or it is seen as “people just coming up with problems” or being “too sensitive.”

Colorism in the United States is the result of white supremacist ideology.  During slavery, Intercourse between whites and blacks created mixed-race offspring who had a social status, which set them above other, enslaved people.  Lighter-skinned African Americans maintained family and community ties that distanced them from their darker-skinned counterparts, this distance still persists today.  They were “to white to be black and to black to be white.” Researchers have documented the ways in which many black teachers in segregated schools during the pre-Brown vs. Board of Education era was infected with the attitudes that preferred lighter-skinned children over dark-skinned students.  Light complexioned African Americans who look down on darker-skinned African Americans were perpetuating a hierarchy of discrimination imposed by the white majority.

According to Leland Ware, Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Delaware:

In the early decades of the twentieth century, colorism fueled conflicts among African-American leaders, including Marcus Garvey, who was the head of the Universal Negro Improvement Organization. Unlike the NAACP, which fought for integration, Garvey proposed migration to Africa as the answer to the “Negro problem.” In 1931, Garvey, who had a very dark complexion and African features, claimed that W.E.B. Du Bois and the NAACP practiced colorism: Du Bois fervently denied Garvey’s claim, but there was some truth to it. Walter White was the head of the NAACP from the mid-1930s until his death in 1955. White’s light skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes did not display a hint of his African ancestry. White’s colorism was reflected in the image of African-American women he actively promoted in Crisis, a periodical published by the NAACP. The editors used photographs of predominantly light-skinned, college-educated women in an effort to displace entrenched notions of Black women as “Jezebels” or sexual victims. The editors wanted to refashion the image of Black women, but in doing so they promoted colorism. Today colorism is still promoted in society and the industry. Many celebrities are those of lighter complexion, occasional exotic dark skin and those who can pass the brown paper bag test.”

This mindset did not just stem from slavery but Biblical origins such as the Curse of Ham. According to Wikipedia, the story’s original purpose may have been to justify the subjugation of the Canaanite people to the Israelites, but in later centuries, some Christians, Muslims, and Jews interpreted the narrative as an explanation for black skin, as well as slavery. In the ancient Indian scripture of the Ramayana, there’s a scene that depicts a fight between a noble, fair-skinned king from the north, and an evil dark-skinned king from the south. This trope points to how people view the source of a person’s skin color between darkness as bad or evil and white are pure, clean and good.

People believe that colorism can end if a loving family that expresses how important and beautiful your melanin is regardless of its shade raises you. This is not the real-world experience of dark-skinned people.

I will talk about my real-world experiences with colorism in Part 2 of this series.

The post How Colorism Subjugates Dark-Skinned Black Women appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Night Out for Safety and Liberation

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 12:11

The first Tuesday of August, neighbors of communities from all fifty states take part in the National Night Out.  Local police departments host block parties, festivals and other community activities. According to the event website, “National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.”

However, this cause is implausible when agencies fail to provide officers with policy guidance, hold officers accountable for misconduct and collect data about officer’s activities. Most problems arise when police patrol under-resourced neighborhoods. Patrolling is supposed to keep people safe but in reality patrolling forces residents to give up their rights and lose their sense of security within public and personal spaces. Policing is flawed because it profits from stopping, searching, ticketing, arresting and incarcerating people.

The District of Columbia is the capitol of the United States. Despite being the capitol, DC is not funded as it should be given its stature in America. Issues like food deserts, medical assistance, affordable housing, education funding and a poor infrastructure are serious problems for District residents. These topics all deal with public safety as they correspond to resident stability. A Night Out for Safety and Liberation is a community-driven alternative to the National Night Out. The event aims to create new understanding of public safety. Join us for:                  

Night Out for Safety and Liberation
Tuesday, August 7
5pm – 9pm
Maroon House
1005 Rhode Island Avenue NE

Goals such as building connections with neighbors, ending mass incarceration and ending for-profit bail are designed to help community members re-imagine what public safety is. This event is aimed at giving power to the community and showing that we have a right to govern ourselves. We as a community should be able to depend on one another, lend a helping hand, tutor the mis-educated and defuse potentially violent situations. Equity, equality and power are the goals for redefining a community. Fear, prosecution and conflict should not be the main reactions to situations in the neighborhood. Instead, we should give power back to the community by shedding light on existing community resources and the variety of options available for achieving public safety.

The post Night Out for Safety and Liberation appeared first on Grassroots DC.

How To Have Effective Teachers In Every School (Or, What DC Doesn’t Do–But Should)

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 14:09

This crosspost from Valerie Jablow is for all those DC education advocates who really want to understand some of what would be needed to have effective reform in DCPS.  Good teachers need to be trained, recruited and supported.  

Cross-Posted from EducationDC
written by Valerie Jablow

We know that teachers are the single most important school-based factor affecting student learning (Rice, 2003). Ensuring that students in all schools have access to effective teachers is critical for academic success. Yet, as in many other school districts, high-poverty schools in DCPS have fewer highly effective teachers compared with lower poverty schools (Gordon, Kane, & Staiger, 2006; Jackson, 2013; Sass et al., 2012).

Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018. Graph was created using data Mary Levy obtained from DCPS responses to questions from the city council during performance hearings. The drop box with this information is posted on the council website.

Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018. Graph was created using data Mary Levy obtained from DCPS responses to questions from the city council during performance hearings. The drop box with this information is posted on the council website.

One reason for such inequity is higher teacher turnover in schools with larger percentages of low-income students and students with low test scores, who are not on grade level–which affects many schools in DC.

Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018. Turnover data for all staff (not just teachers) here is from the public drop box for the council education committee. PARCC data is from OSSE.

As DC public school analyst Mary Levy has documented, DCPS’s new hires alone leave at a rate of 25% per year, with staff leaving the 40 lowest-performing (and highest poverty) DCPS schools at an average rate of 33% per year. Studies of other jurisdictions have found similar results. For instance, a typical school in Chicago will lose half of its teachers within five years, and the 100 most disadvantaged schools there will lose 25% of their teachers each year (Allensworth, Ponisciak, & Mazzeo, 2009).

Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018. Graph was created using data obtained via FOIA by Mary Levy from DCPS in SY2017–18.

As the graph above shows, teachers in high-poverty schools in DCPS have fewer years of experience in the system. That means that teachers are either moving to more affluent schools or leaving the system altogether, which creates teacher churn in our most disadvantaged schools.

The effects of such teacher churn are particularly pernicious, given that most of our publicly funded schools, particularly in DCPS, have large proportions of low-income students.

As it is, schools with high-poverty populations often have challenges that high-income schools don’t and thus need more instructional resources, including effective teachers, to increase student achievement. Yet in DC, low-income schools most often have fewer instructional resources—and less effective teachers—on average than high-income schools.

Since teacher mobility appears to be at the heart of the inequitable distribution of effective teachers in DCPS, to solve it we need to understand it. We know from research that effective teachers tend to leave schools serving largely disadvantaged student populations for schools serving more advantaged populations (Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2005; Boyd et al., 2009; Feng & Sass, 2011; Feng & Sass, 2015; Hanushek, Kain, & Rivkin, 2004; Hanushek & Rivkin, 2006; Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005; Xu et al., 2012).

One factor contributing to this pattern is that effective teachers tend to go to schools where teacher quality is most like their own, and thus end up in schools serving more advantaged students (Feng & Sass, 2011). Other factors, such as a school’s proximity to home or accountability pressure, also contribute to this pattern (Boyd et al., 2005; Feng, 2010).

At issue in DC as well are teachers’ perceptions that DCPS’s teacher evaluation system (IMPACT) is unfair to teachers who work in high-poverty schools. Under IMPACT, 50% of a teacher’s score comes from student learning gains, and 30% comes from classroom observations. In terms of increasing student learning, research has shown that a teacher who is effective is generally effective in any context (high- or low-poverty) (Glazerman et al., 2013; Lockwood & McCaffrey, 2009). However, research has also shown that teachers have lower returns on years of experience in high-poverty schools (Sass et al., 2012): it simply takes longer to reach a level of effectiveness because teachers there have to do so much more than just teach. In addition, classroom observations have been found to be negatively biased against teachers working in high-poverty schools (Steinberg & Garrett, 2016; Whitehurst et al., 2014).

The pressure inherent in such accountability can be a stressor by itself. If you know your job depends on how much students have learned, or how well they take a test on any given day, and you also know that your students are behind grade level so the likelihood of them scoring well is low under the best of circumstances, that’s stressful. If you know that someone is coming into your classroom to observe you and that will influence your rating (and thus your salary and your job), and you don’t know if a certain student will have a bad day and act out, that’s stressful.

As a result, teachers have many incentives to move to schools with less poverty–and DCPS is not doing much to stop them. Research shows that teachers move to schools where they can feel successful, and teaching in high-poverty schools is hard work. You’re not just teaching: you’re also trying to be a social worker and deal with trauma; acquire necessary classroom and technological resources; reach out to parents; and manage classroom behavior.

These hardships are often exacerbated by DCPS’s lack of support. Here are some examples just from my child’s school:

–Teachers don’t have working computers, yet the mandated curriculum requires blended learning, and student assessments are taken on computers. Teachers resort to Donors Choose to bring in computers, and then computers are trashed when they need repairs because there is no one to repair them.

–DCPS provides minimal support for kids experiencing trauma. A social worker told me it can take up to two years for an appropriate placement to be identified for a child who is particularly struggling. When a child is not in the right placement and/or doesn’t have adequate supports, it’s a lot harder for the teacher to manage classroom behaviors and focus on instruction.

–DCPS doesn’t consider class size to be an important factor affecting student learning, despite a general consensus among researchers that class size matters for children in high-poverty schools in grades K-3. Large class sizes for kids who are multiple years behind grade level makes for an impossible teaching assignment, even for the best of teachers. That’s because in these situations, teachers need to spend more one-on-one time with individual students, which is challenging when class sizes are too large.

To be clear, it’s not wrong to have rigorous teacher evaluation systems—but in a school district like DCPS, with relatively few ineffective teachers to begin with, why is weeding out teachers the most talked-about policy solution when it also results in losing effective ones as well? Also, because student learning gains (a key part of IMPACT) have been available for only 17% of teachers in DCPS (Dee & Wyckoff, 2015), to the extent that IMPACT has rigor it is not seen in student performance. (In fact, a recent report showed that more rigorous teacher evaluations systems do not improve student performance.)

A growing body of research suggests that teachers do respond to financial incentives to remain at high-poverty schools–but that such incentives may need to be large and recurring to retain effective teachers in those schools (Glazerman et al., 2013; Springer et al., 2016).

Moreover, research shows that working conditions are still very important to teachers, regardless of salary (Horng, 2009; Milanowski et al., 2009). For example, Horng (2009) was able to disentangle preservice teacher preferences via a survey for elementary school teachers and found that an $8,000 difference in salary was not as important to teachers in selecting a school as facilities, administrative support, class sizes, or commuting times. Findings by Liu, Johnson, and Peske (2004) also suggested that recruiting teachers was not adequate; more focus was needed on retaining teachers and building teachers’ capacity.

This suggests a path ahead for our publicly funded schools that simply has not been approached effectively in DC.

Although DCPS provides generous bonuses to teachers for teaching in high-poverty schools, those bonuses are provided only under two conditions: having a highly effective rating and permanently giving up rights under excessing. (DCPS provides smaller bonuses to teachers in low-poverty schools–with the same conditions; see page 35ff of the contract here.)

Possibly worse, effective teachers in high-income schools have few incentives to move to low-income schools because they may be concerned that the move will hurt their effectiveness rating.

In other words, DCPS’s system places all of the risk of teaching at high-poverty schools on teachers—with no additional supports. Worse, this lack of support goes in many directions. Every year, for instance, good principals ask their best teachers what they need to stay, but there’s only so much each school leader can change. A school leader can’t acquire computers if they are lacking or hire effective teachers in the middle of the school year.

Research also suggests that teachers may be more willing to work or remain in low-achieving schools if they have a group of effective peers. One study of Teach for America (TFA) participants found that teacher retention in a school improved when TFA participants were placed in groups in each school during the 2-year program (Hansen, Backes, & Brady, 2016). Emerging evidence from other reforms suggests that effective teachers were more likely to move to high-needs schools when other effective teachers were willing to do the same (Partee, 2014).

Given the harmful effects of the inequitable distribution of effective teachers in DCPS, the question is whether city leaders will avail themselves of this research and use it to inform their decision making and policies going forward. The simple act of going into schools and asking teachers what do they need to stay is the first step. The second is to use what has been proven to work. And the third step is to revisit both, with the active collaboration of teachers.

In a city where competition rules the day in so many things, including our public schools, collaboration may seem old-fashioned. But to recruit, and retain, effective teachers in low-income schools, collaboration is the first, perhaps most important, step.

[Ed. Note: This post would not have been possible without the expertise of DCPS parent Betsy Wolf on issues surrounding the distribution, recruitment, and retention of effective teachers in DCPS. Wolf is an assistant professor in the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins, where she conducts independent evaluations of K-12 reforms and policies. All academic citations not linked herein are listed in the bibliography at the end.]


Allensworth, E., Ponisciak, S., & Mazzeo, C. (2009). The Schools Teachers Leave: Teacher Mobility in Chicago Public Schools. Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2009). Who leaves? Teacher attrition and student achievement. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2005). The Draw of Home: How Teachers’ Preferences for Proximity Disadvantage Urban Schools. Journal of Policy Analysis & Management, 24(1), 113–132.

Dee, T. & Wyckoff, J. (2015). Incentives, Selection, and Teacher Performance: Evidence from IMPACT. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 34(2), 267-297.

Feng, L. (2010). Hire today, gone tomorrow: New teacher classroom assignments and teacher mobility. Education Finance and Policy, 5(3), 278–316.

Feng, L., & Sass, T. (2011). Teacher Quality and Teacher Mobility (Working Paper No. 57). Washington, D.C.: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, The Urban Institute.

Feng, L., & Sass, T. R. (2015). The impact of incentives to recruit and retain techers in “hard to staff” subjects: An analysis of the Florida Critical Teacher Shortage Program. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

Glazerman, S., Protik, A., Teh, B., Bruch, J., & Max, J. (2013). Transfer incentives for high-performing teachers: Final results from a multisite randomized experiment (NCEE 2014–4004). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.

Gordon, R., Kane, T. J., & Staiger, D. O. (2006). Identifying effective teachers using performance on the job. Discussion Paper Series (Hamilton Project), 1(1).

Hansen, M., Backes, B., & Brady, V. (2016). Teacher attrition and moblity during the Teach for Amercian clustering strategy in Miami-Dade Public Schools. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 38(3), 495–516.

Hanushek, E.A., Kain, J., & Rivkin, S. (2004). Why Public Schools Lose Teachers. Journal of Human Resources, 39(2), 326–354.

Hanushek, E.A., & Rivkin, S. (2006). Teacher Quality. In E. Hanushek & F. Welch (Eds.), Handbook of the Economics of Education (Vol. 2). Elsevier.

Horng, E. (2009). Teacher Tradeoffs: Disentangling Teachers’ Preferences for Working Conditions and Student Demographics. American Educational Research Journal, 46(3), 690–717.

Jackson, C. K. (2013). Match quality, worker productivity, and worker mobility: Direct evidence from teachers. Review of Economics and Statistics, 95(4), 1096–1116.

Liu, E., Johnson, S. M., & Peske, H. G. (2004). New Teachers and the Massachusetts Signing Bonus: The Limits of Inducements. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26(3), 217–236.

Liu, K. (2010). Peer group effects on student outcomes: Evidence from randomized lotteries (Doctoral dissertation). Vanderbilt University, Nashville.

Lockwood, J. R., & McCaffrey, D. F. (2009). Exploring student-teacher interactions in longitudinal achievement data. Education Finance and Policy, 4(4), 439–467.

Milanowski, A. T., Longwell-Grice, H., Saffold, F., Jones, J., Schomisch, K., & Odden, A. (2009). Recruiting New Teachers to Urban School Districts: What Incentives Will Work? International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 4(8).

Partee, G. L. (2014). Attaining equitable distribution of effective teachers in public schools. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.

Rice, J. (2003). Teacher quality. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.

Rivkin, S., Hanushek, E., & Kain, J. (2005). Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement. Econometrica, 73(2), 417–458.

Sass, T. R. (2008). The stability of value-added measures of teacher quality and implications for teacher compensation policy (Brief 4). Washington, DC: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.

Sass, T., Hannaway, J., Xu, Z., Figlio, D., & Feng, L. (2012). Value added of teachers in high-poverty schools and lower-poverty schools. Journal of Urban Economics, 72(2–3), 104–122.

Springer, M. G., Swain, W. A., & Rodriguez, L. A. (2016). Effective teacher retention bonuses: Evidence from Tennesse. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 38(2), 199–221.

Steinberg, M. P., & Garrett, R. (2016). Classroom composition and measured teacher performance: What do teacher observation scores really measure? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 38(2), 293–317.

Whitehurst, G., Chingos, M., & Lindquist, K. (2014). Evaluating teachers with classroom observations: Lessons learned in four districts. Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Xu, Z., Ozek, U., & Corritore, M. (2012). Portability of Teacher Effectiveness across School Settings. Working Paper 77. National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.

The post How To Have Effective Teachers In Every School (Or, What DC Doesn’t Do–But Should) appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Basic Videography Workshop at We Act Radio

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 13:22

You’re a progressive activists or organizer.  You show up for events that teach people about your causes and confront officials who are not, generally speaking, asked to account for their actions.  You learn things yourself that you didn’t know.  You want to share what you’re learning at these events  with your friends and everybody you know who you wish had been there but wasn’t. 

So you pull out your camera phone or your DSLR or your camcorder and you start recording.  You shoot a few minutes of one speaker and a few minutes of another and maybe get some crowd shots.   At the end of the day you load it up to your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your Youtube channel and hope for the best.

It isn’t until you play the footage back that you realize that you were too far away from the speaker for your recording device to really get what they were saying.   The conversation of the people standing next to you is pretty clear though.  Or maybe the shot looked okay when you were shooting, but now that you’re looking at it, the African-American speaker’s face is pretty dark.  The white folks standing next to her/him/they is fine though.  Is there racism in the camera?  Maybe.  But it isn’t anything that can’t be overcome with a few good tips.

Understanding how to adjust the exposure settings on your so-called point and shoot device, making  the best use of available light and placing the camera where the speaker not only looks good but can be heard are all techniques we’ll be teaching at Grassroots DC’s next Basic Videography Workshop.

There’s something to be said for sharing a few minutes of a good speaker at an event via social media.  But if you want to make sure your video looks good, sounds good and maybe even includes a specific call to action, like, when is the next event?  Who should they contact to join the cause?  What specific policy should they ask their elected officials to support?  Then this event is for you.

There will be food and young people are welcome.  Contact for more information.

The post Basic Videography Workshop at We Act Radio appeared first on Grassroots DC.

It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over, It’s Important to Vote on June 19 to be Heard

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 14:20

On July 12, 2016, the D.C. Council passed the Incarceration to Incorporation Entrepreneurship Program (IIEP), DC Law 21-159. The IIEP would provide entrepreneurship opportunities for returning citizens such as a General Equivalency Diploma program; college courses in entrepreneurship; apprenticeship training; leadership and character development; financial literacy instruction; and the availability of access to capital.

The IIEP is a successful model of entrepreneurship.  Similar programs regularly change the lives of returning citizens.  For example, Raising Tide Capital helps individuals start and grow businesses; Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) strives to promote innovation through career development, education, and mentoring, and Defy Ventures supports employment, entrepreneurship and personal and leadership development.  For more information about the Incarceration to Incorporation Program, go to our website,

Despite the bill passing unanimously by the council, the Mayor refused to fund the measure in her last two budgets with the council following suit. This year, myself and the other members of Coalition 159, who’ve been fighting to get this bill passed and funded, felt confident that the council would fund the program this year.   Both Councilmember Elissa Silverman, chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee and Kenyan McDuffie, chair of the Committee on Business and Economic Development, had expressed support, leading us to believe that they would do what they could to fund the program.  [Unfortunately, we were wrong.]

As this legislation was being voted on in the committee, Councilmember Silverman expressed, “I really think this [entrepreneurship program] is a creative approach …. I think we as a District government need to think of all the ways in which we can engage our returning citizens. … I think this is a bill that will take a first step toward looking at how we address the entrepreneurship issue, ….”

Councilmember McDuffie, who chairs the Committee on Business and Economic Development, said during his April 11, 2018 hearing, “I think there are far too many returning citizens who lack opportunities in traditional employment. But I’d like to think there are some things the city can do more of around entrepreneurship for people who are returning from periods of incarceration.” Furthermore, he expressed that, “[i]f you look at $14.5 billion total budget, $100,000 in a year, is a fraction of what we should be investing to try to help these people successfully integrate.”

The one-hundred million plus $50,000 was the funding the Mayor budget for the Aspire to Entrepreneurship program.  [I don’t understand this last sentence.]  What’s more, Coalition 159 developed budget estimates for how much the IIEP would cost over four years that were 55% and 65% lower than the council’s $4.7 million financial impact of the IIEP.  Despite this and despite the praise for our program, there was still no consideration for start-up funding.

In Silverman’s committee hearing on April 18, instead of addressing why her position had seemingly changed with respect to the IIEP, she suggested I contact the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) because they supposedly had money available to fund entrepreneurship for returning citizens. To the contrary, Councilmember Robert White shared that “that funding did not have an impact on IIEP”. But, even if we were to have received outside funding, which we had been pursuing, we still would’ve needed additional start-up funding from the government. Ms. Silverman apparently didn’t seek to identify any funding for the IIEP nor mention any coalition testimony in her committee’s report.  For example, in the committee’s 2018 report, it mentioned “finding ways to assist returning citizens reenter the workforce and find employment that gives them access to a reliable career path is one of the most important issues in workforce development on the District.”

We even appeared before the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety in hopes that chairperson Charles Allen would have brought that “new sense of urgency and creativity” he talked about “to how we support returning citizens get their feet on the ground.”  Unfortunately, we didn’t see that sense of urgency from him as it relates to the IIEP in this budget cycle nor the last.

Since the IIEP was passed without funding for the second fiscal year, it’s subject to repeal in Fiscal Year 2020. We wonder why the mayor, nor the council has showed any sincere interest in funding this highly successful program model of entrepreneurship for returning citizens.

At the April 28 hearing, former director of Court Services and Offender Supervisor Agency (CSOSA), Nancy Ware, testified in support of the IIEP. Ms. Ware said that she’s witnessed the success that opportunities for self-sufficiency offered individuals to become productive tax paying citizens of the city. There was a substantial decline in the percentages of individuals revoked to incarceration, an increase in the successful completion of supervision, and decreased rearrest rates”

We must ask ourselves, why did the council vote unanimously to approve the IIEP legislation but not make funding it a priority?  Is it because [we already have] the Aspire program?  Or is it because the IIEP has the potential to generate $10 million dollars in the operation of an entrepreneurship program in which returning citizens would primarily benefit? I surmise that the answer is the same as why the Mayor’s Office of Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA) has be so terribly underfunded and understaffed since as far back as 2015. The Mayor’s budget doesn’t truly reflect the needs of returning citizen as a priority of her administration.

We believe returning citizens should be a priority in the District because, “on average, half of the men and women who come under the criminal justice system in DC are unemployed at any given time ….” Even more so, according to Ms. Ware, “those who are unemployed, slightly more than half of them are actually employable.”  Obviously, it’s more beneficial to employ our residents because crime generates substantial costs to society. Programs that directly or indirectly prevent crime can generate substantial economic benefits by reducing crime-related costs incurred by victims, communities, and the criminal justice system. Moreover, programs like RTC, Defy and potentially IIEP, yield high return on investment through low recidivism rates; job creation; increased income; and businesses launched with high survival rates.

I believe we have an opportunity to change the course of this city in this election for the better. But you must educate yourself and vote. I was at a Returning Citizens forum and heard a candidate say, “… and I’d fund the Incarceration to Incorporation Entrepreneurship Program (IIEP).”  These processes should ensure that the right questions are asked as it pertains to the IIEP.  In other words, why have those who’ve been on the council the last two years, and voted unanimously to pass the IIEP, failed to fund the program? And, since the law is to be repealed in the third year after enactment, what are the candidates plans to ensure it is funded and not repealed next year?

We’ve encouraged our supporters to intensify their efforts until the council records their final vote on the budget. In other words, it’s not over till it’s over. This year, it’s truly not over till it’s over. On June 19th D.C. voters will select nominees for council chairman, two at-large council seats and four ward level council seats. Many of the current council, including McDuffie, Silverman and Charles Allen, will have their seats challenged.  Some of those challengers, like candidate for chairman Ed Lazere, support funding the IIEP. Before you vote, The Coalition engages you to research the candidates and ensure your vote is for someone who will truly champion legislation for your communities.

You can exercise your vote to select those who you believe will alter the direction of the budget process in FY2020 to fund those priorities our communities feel provide a real “fair shot” for them. Remember, it’s not over till you say it’s over with your vote.

Kevin Smith is an advocate for returning citizens. In his recent efforts to get funding for the IIEP, he coordinated advocacy for the Working Coalition to Fund the IIEP. His views expressed here are his own and doesn’t reflect any members or supporters of the Working Coalition.

The post It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over, It’s Important to Vote on June 19 to be Heard appeared first on Grassroots DC.

This Is How the District of Columbia Spends More than $700 Million Every Year

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 12:07

Cross-Posted from EducationDC
written by Valerie Jablow

What is outlined below happened thus far in 2018 in just one of our public education sectors. As far as I am aware, no DC public official has publicly commented with concern nor called for any investigation of the charter board’s actions.

–The charter board and its staff appear to be tied–in ways that remain unknown to the public–to a private organization that gets public money through contracts with charter schools regardless of its actual performance with those schools. Charter school staff have reported being afraid of the organization.

–Despite knowledge throughout 2017 of the fiscal woes of Washington Mathematics Science Technology high school (WMST), and with its own reportsshowing deep financial troubles as early as 2014, the charter board appeared to take no action to help WMST. Public notification of the school’s dire fiscal situation also was not apparent.

–In January, the charter board staff completed a 20-year review of WMST, which was posted on the charter board website. I saw the review in late February or early March and noted that it seemed only mildly concerned about the school’s finances. In April, I looked again for the review, but it was gone. When I asked about it, a staff member directed me toward this review, dated March 12, 2018. On that day, the charter board met in an “emergency” session to vote to begin revocation of the school’s charter. This version raises concerns with the school’s finances that I recollect the January review did not. I asked several charter board staff what happened to the January review. No one responded. The January review existed, as materials the City Paper received via FOIA regarding WMST (see hereand here) make reference to it (see in the first link pages 315, 428, and 623).

–These points together suggest that rather than allowing school performance to actually determine a school’s fate, the charter board (or its staff or both) determines which schools will be closed through the board’s own actions–or lack thereof.

–This week, I testified about WMST to the charter board. I noted that most of the city block where WMST is located was bought in May 2017 for $66 million by Douglas development and LLCs associated with it. The intention was to make a major development there. After that May 2017 Douglas purchase, the only properties on that block not owned by Douglas and its investors (who are publicly unknown) were WMST and a fast food restaurant on the corner of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road. That meant that after May 2017, WMST was the only  impediment to a contiguous Douglas development there.

–In February 2018, WMST applied with the charter board to get a new location. Its application made clear that it would sell its property, but remain in it until 2019. In March 2018, around the time ground was broken for the Douglas development, the charter board voted to allow WMST to stay open only if it sold its property within a month, to raise money. In April 2018, Douglas bought WMST’s property for $6.25 million–well below its assessed value of nearly $10 million. The purchase price was enough only to pay off the school’s outstanding loan–but not to continue operations. The charter board executive director stressed repeatedly that the school’s value was much too high at $9 million.

–The charter board voted on April 23 to have DC charter schools report only contracts that are greater than $100,000, citing the “burden” to schools to do otherwise. It is not clear that the charter board has the authority to make that rule. Such rulemaking may require the scrutiny and approval of elected leaders, as it changes the guidelines of the School Reform Act, the authorizing legislation for DC charter schools.

–When the new contracts rule goes into effect later this year, no one in the public will be able to access or know about any contracts in any DC charter school less than $100,000, unless the schools themselves voluntarily disclose those contracts or the charter board asks them to. This is because no DC charter school is subject to FOIA. Charter schools in other jurisdictions are subject to FOIA.

–The transcript of the April 23, 2018 charter board meeting approving the contract change notes that there were 6 public comments on the rulemaking. But none of the comments are publicly available.

–The charter board violated the FOIA law, in not giving a complete disclosure of documents during the reporting on the board’s relationship with a private organization.

–When I filed a complaint with the board of ethics and government accountability (BEGA) about the actions of the charter board in regard to the oversight and closure of WMST, I was told that charter board staff are not considered public employees and thus are not subject to BEGA’s oversight. As a city agency under the control of mayoral appointees, BEGA recently refused to renew the contract of the director of the office of open government, Traci Hughes. Some years ago, Hughes overruled mayoral appointee and former deputy mayor for education Jennifer Niles and said that meetings of the cross sector collaboration task force must be open to the public. More recently, Hughes ruled that the DC charter board violated the open meetings act by approving a charter school expansion without public notice. And more recently yet, the city council took a preliminary vote to put the once-independent office of open government under control of BEGA. (A final vote by the council is June 5.)

–I also filed a complaint about the WMST oversight and closure with Attorney General (AG) Karl Racine. He told me that his office would investigate only what the school did; anything else they found about the actions of the charter board or its staff would be referred to BEGA or the Office of the Inspector General.

–Charter board executive director Scott Pearson made a donation of $1500 to AG Racine on March 8, 2018. He also made a $1500 donation to council chair Phil Mendelson on February 21, 2018. Both Racine and Mendelson are up for re-election. Pearson’s donation to Racine came 4 days before the charter board voted to initiate charter revocation of WMST. Both donations were also Pearson’s only local political donations recorded thus far this election cycle and constitute about a third of all Pearson’s donations to DC city politicians.

–The executive director of the charter board said that they do not enforce the lawregarding suspensions. He was under oath when he testified about that before the education committee of the city council.

–The public is not entitled to know anything except top level data about charter school facilities in DC. Building surveys of charter schools for the master facilities plan (due out later in 2018) are being paid for by the Walton Foundation, a major charter supporter. City officials have said this means the public will not be able to have that data. There was no explanation for why public funds could not be used for this purpose.

Remember, it’s an election year–and there are candidates offering something different than business as usual. There’s even a proposal for a truly independent education data group–for a fraction of the money spent in what is outlined above. Seems that once again, democracy sure beats the alternative.

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May Citizen’s Reader: Teacher Appreciation, DCPS Budget and Orr Elementary Renovations

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 11:05

The National Education Association, founded in 1857, traces the beginnings of a national teacher appreciation day back to the 1940s when a couple of teachers contacted then first Lady Eleanor Roosevelt suggesting that teachers be recognized across the country.  Congress passed a bill to have a National Teacher Appreciation Day in 1985. Later, it became annual, and later still extended to a week. It’s celebrated internationally too, usually on October 5 each year.

In School Year 2017-2018, DC Public Schools had 4,012 teachers, according to its two page “Fast Facts” information sheet. Starting salary, which it describes as “the highest starting salary in the country” was $55,209 ($51,539 in SY 16/17) with $108,262 ($106,540 in SY 16/17) being the highest possible a teacher could earn.

In 2016, DCPS published a “then” and “now” report describing the reforms of the teaching corps system “from recruitment all the way to retirement.” That can be read here:

DCPS teachers are represented by the Washington Teachers Union. Their previous contract expired in 2012 and five years later, in September 2017, a new one was approved that includes a raise in pay and governs their other terms of employment for the next three years.

Teacher Awards in 2018

The 2018 National Teacher of the Year, selected by the Council of Chief State School Officers, is Mandy Manning, an English Language Arts teacher at the Joel Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington. She was honored at the White House on May 2.

The CCSSO selected Paul Howard, a Social Studies and History teacher for 7th and 8th grades at the LaSalle Backus Education Campus, as the Teacher of the Year for DC in the State category.

Tameka Colman of Walker-Jones Education Campus in Ward 6 was selected as the Excellence Award Teacher of the Year at the Standing Ovation awards ceremony on February 8, 2018 and received $10,000. In addition, Jillian Atlas, Joanna Davila, Taylor Parsons, Kaila Ramsey, Lauren Bomba, Lashunda Reynolds and Pamela Tucker each received $5,000 Rubenstein Awards.

Standing Ovation is hosted by the DC Education Fund using money donated by businesses and philanthropists. This year the ceremony was moved from the Kennedy Center to the Anthem Theater at the newly opened District Wharf in the Southwest neighborhood.

FY 2019 Budget update

The budget the Mayor proposed on March 21, 2018 for all the DC government’s operations and capital projects is $14. 4 billion for Fiscal Year 2019 which begins on October 1, this coming fall. Of that $14.4 billion, she proposed to spend a total of $2,766,292,803 for the Public Education System. The table below shows the agencies that make up the Public Education System, the amounts proposed and the change, if any, from the FY 18 budget.

Using those figures and all the public and government testimony, the Committee on Education “marked up” the education budget May 2 to 4th. Once agreed on the changes they wanted to make from the Mayor’s proposed amounts, the committee then sent its recommendations to the Council’s Budget Director where they will be incorporated into the budget the Council as a whole will consider for its approval. The Committee’s report can be read at

The Council will hold its first meeting on the FY 19 budget on Tuesday, May 15 at 10 am in Room 500 and its second meeting on Tuesday, May 29, also at 10 am in Room 500 at the John A. Wilson Building.

A part of the education committee’s mark-up report is about the capital budget for school modernizations. In several instances, they questioned or disagreed with the proposed amount or schedule but in most cases, left it to the forthcoming Master Facilities Plan to resolve.

There are several modernization projects in Wards 7 and 8 that are in the works now and had money added, or they are receiving money in FY 19 to start planning. For example, the Mayor added $4 million for the Kimball Elementary School project due to escalating costs as the work progresses. Kimball students are attending classes at the formally closed Davis Elementary School on H St. SE during the work on their building. The Mayor also proposed $500,000 each for Burrville Elementary and C.W. Harris Elementary playground updates.

In Ward 8, MalcomX@Green is scheduled for $1.5 million in window replacements. Johnson Elementary is scheduled for a $2 million full roof replacement. Henley Elementary and Adams Elementary in NW are scheduled for $4,250,000 to replace their HVAC systems.

Modernizing Orr Elementary…the building

A full modernization is underway in Ward 8 at the currently named Orr Elementary.  The picture to the left shows Orr Elementary School as it looks while walking south on Minnesota Ave. SE. The entrance is to the right of the rose bushes in the foreground. As we walked toward the entrance to personally deliver our thanks to some DC teachers, we were greeted by a friendly woman standing just inside the open door.

When she learned the purpose of our visit she took us to meet the assistant principal in charge of operations. He too was friendly and welcoming, and, without an appointment, invited us in to his office.

His position, he said, is about three years old and is one of the changes DCPS made to support principals.  By dividing the labor into an academic and instructional area and a separate operations area that handles the needs and functions of the building itself, one person is not trying to do everything and can better do what each is responsible for.  He’s been there for ten years and says his favorite part of the job is greeting the students and parents as they arrive in the morning. He described his sensitivity to students who come with a feeling of having “the whole world on their shoulders” and is happy that he, and everyone in the school, can help the students feel that while they are there, the grown-ups will take care of them and they have only their learning to focus on. Below is the new building going up just to the side of the current one with a part of the church next door on the far right.

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District Police Officer Shoots Wildly, Kills One

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 12:01
Metro Police Department’s Violence, Recklessness, and Lack of Accountability Requires Immediate, Substantive Action from Elected Officials

On Wednesday, May 9th, an off-duty officer with the Metropolitan Police Department opened fire in northeast D.C., killing 24-year-old D’Quan Young. Witnesses report that the officer “shot wildly, as children ran for their lives,” and that the officer reloaded his weapon and continued shooting after D’Quan Young was on the ground. This follows the May 4th killing of Jeffrey Price – in which MPD’s narrative of innocence directly contradicts witness accounts – and the recent lawsuit filed against the DC government for its failure to collect stop and frisk data required by the NEAR Act. April Goggans, a Core Organizer of Black Lives Matter DC, and Eugene Puryear, co-founder and core organizer  of Stop Police Terror Project-DC released the following statement in response:

“From top to bottom, our city is failing to protect its Black residents and permitting its reckless police department to terrorize Black communities without consequence,” said Natacia Knapper of Stop Police Terror Project-DC. “This permissive attitude is what emboldens officers like the one that murdered D’Quan Young to behave with impunity. This permissive attitude is what emboldens Chief Newsham to immediately discredit and dismiss witness testimony, withhold information from the public, and decline to condemn the officer’s actions. The Metropolitan Police Department has been sent a message by our elected officials that they can operate as they please, flagrantly and recklessly violating their own stated policies, without any fear of serious reprisal from those in a position to hold them accountable.”

“The killings of D’Quan Young and Jeffrey Price have to be understood in the context of a police department and city government with a legacy of inaction when it comes to police harassment and brutalization of Black people,” added April Goggans. “When officers like Brian Trainer, who brutally murdered Terrence Sterling in 2016, continue to receive paychecks for nearly two years, it sends a message that officers need not consider the consequences of their actions – especially when interacting with DC’s Black residents.”

“Time and time again the voice of the community is dismissed – both by the police themselves, and the elected officials charged with overseeing the police,” said Eugene Puryear. “When Jeffrey Price was killed in an incident involving a police cruiser, the department immediately contradicted witness accounts, defended the actions of their officers and completely dismissing community testimony, and even assigned an investigator to the case who himself has been previously investigated for fatally ramming a dirt bike rider. When 54 community organizations called on city council to hold a hearing on racism and violence within the MPD, they were met with months of silence, and only received acknowledgement of their demand after applying intense pressure on councilmembers via social media. When Mayor Bowser amended the city’s budget to provide funding for MPD’s two-year-late stop-and-frisk data collection, she did so by cutting funding from an eviction prevention program, essentially forcing DC’s low-income residents to pay the price for the police department’s mistakes.”

“Let’s be perfectly clear,” added Goggans, “Muriel Bowser and the City Council have allowed this crisis to unfold and escalate as they refused to take substantive action to reign in the Metropolitan Police Department.  The blood of D’Quan Young and Jeffrey Price is on their hands.”

Black Lives Matter DC is a radical collective organizing to dismantle white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism and the role the state plays in supporting them.

Stop Police Terror Project-DC is an organization committed to changing the system of racist, militarized policing. SPTP DC works to oppose police abuses and also to build community-led peacekeeping efforts to empower oppressed communities to deal with their own security concerns.

Both groups, along with seven other organizations, are co-sponsoring the D.C. Council Candidate Forum on Criminal Justice.  Come find out how this year’s candidates would respond to the violence, recklessness and lack of accountability within the Metropolitan Police Department.

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Incompatible Allies: Black Lives Matter, March For Our Lives and the US Debate about Guns and Violence

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 10:48

Join Black Lives Matter DC for the first screening of Incompatible Allies, a documentary that compares local efforts to deal with gun violence with national activism. If the momentum of March For Our Lives turns out to be fleeting, where should those who are committed to ending gun violence direct their efforts?


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BackBurner Dreams: A Woman’s Passion Project

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 09:48

Brenda Hayes started pursuing her dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker at age 58. Now 62, she is releasing her first documentary – BackBurner Dreams.

BackBurner Dreams follows three women of color over a nine month period, as they bring the dreams they put on hold to raise children, work unfulfilling jobs, support the dreams and passions of everyone else except themselves, back to the fore.

During the production of BackBurner Dreams, Hayes spoke to many women for whom the film resonates and who find their dreams waylaid due to societal norms and social constructs. Can women have it all? Hayes is not sure, but she is sure that we’re expected to do it all.

BackBurner Dreams: A Woman’s Passion Project Premiere’s
Sunday, May 13, 2018
5:30 PM – 8:00 PM
Busboys and Poets
15th & K Streets NW, Washington, DC

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets.

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A Closer Look at ‘At-Risk’ Funds: How Limited School Funding Can Lead to the Misuse of Extra Resources for Low-Income Students

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 16:11
Cross-Posted from the District’s Dime Written By Marlana Wallace

Far too many DC students face enormous challenges—unhealthy environments, housing instabilityfood insecurity, care-giving responsibilities, and the stress of living paycheck to paycheck. About half of DC students currently qualify for ‘at-risk’ funding because they are growing up in families struggling to make ends meet, or they are at risk of falling behind in the classroom.[1] Both DC Public Schools (DCPS) and public charter schools receive an additional $2,334 per-student in local ‘at-risk’ dollars.[2] But the underfunding of schools often results in the misuse of these extra resources intended to support students facing the greatest barriers. The District needs a better blueprint for the resources required to staff every school and the resources needed to support low-income students in particular.

‘At-risk’ funds were designed to promote equity: to ensure that low-income students get the same kinds of enriching opportunities and services as their higher-income peers, and to ensure that students who are struggling academically get the targeted supports they need to succeed in the classroom. These funds are supposed to help schools provide supplemental resources and expand important services for the students who need them most.

But tight school budgets have led to the misuse of ‘at-risk’ funds. Schools struggling to maintain current staffing or otherwise meet necessary requirements are often forced to re-direct dollars for targeted services for the students who need them most and/or de-prioritize enriching arts and afterschool programs—never mind make needed improvements. In this way, inadequate school funding limits the ability of schools to change the large and troubling differences in academic outcomes between the District’s low-income and higher-income students.

There are deeply distressing differences between the educational outcomes of economically disadvantaged students and their wealthier peers in the District. Less than a quarter of low-income DC high school students test college and career ready in English.Schools are also failing to prepare students of color for college and careers to the same degree as white students. In high school English, 87 percent of white students are considered college and career ready compared to only 21 percent of Black students (Figure 1). In fact, racial disparities in student outcomes are widening in the District. Although the PARCC scores of all DC students and subgroups have improved overall, the scores of white students improved five percentage points more than Black students.[3] Economic and racial injustice are distinct and yet intertwined, with particularly devastating consequences for low-income students of color. Addressing the injustice of these inequalities requires targeted resources, like ‘at-risk’ dollars.

Figure 1.

Every dollar of ‘at-risk’ funding should be easily identifiable, because all the dollars should be supplemental. But information on the school-level allocation of ‘at-risk’ funds is not made readily accessible in real time, and actual spending of ‘at-risk funds’ at the DCPS school level is not tracked. Of the $50.3 million that is supposed to follow DCPS students to their schools, only 59 percent ($29.8 million) was allocated in ‘at-risk eligible ways,’ according to Mary Levy’s latest analysis (Figure 2).[4]  The allocation of the other 41 percent ($20.5 million) of ‘at-risk’ funds could not be identified in the individual school budgets.[5] It is likely that a large share of these unaccounted for ‘at-risk’ funds are once again being used for functions that are required at all schools as part of DCPS’s staffing model, instead of supplemental services for the students who need them most. Even if every dollar of ‘at-risk’ money in the FY 2019 budget was allocated on targeted services as intended, these funds would remain far short of the levels recommended in the 2013 Adequacy Study.[6]

Figure 2.

School level leaders in both DCPS and public charters, alongside teachers and families, should be able to leverage ‘at-risk’ funds to serve their students’ specific needs in evidence-based ways. Whether school communities choose to use those funds on targeted supports or school-wide benefits, those resources should be supplemental.

Schools must be adequately funded so that basic needs are met, without having to tap ‘at-risk’ funds. Budget increases for DCPS and public charter schools in recent years have been arbitrary, and not connected to what it really costs to provide quality education.  Five years have passed since the 2013 Adequacy Study, and yet we still have not reached the level of resources it recommended, once adjusted for inflation– let alone the level needed to keep up with all of our system’s changing needs.  DC Council should allocate enough money in FY 2019 to revise the 2013 Adequacy Study and update our understanding of investments needed to support every school and ensure that we are meeting the needs of low-income students.

Read more about DCFPI’s FY 2019 education budget recommendations here.

[i] A projected 44,496 students in DC qualify for ‘at-risk’ funding in the 2018-2019 school year because they are a foster care student, experiencing homelessness, overage for their grade, or participate in SNAP or TANF, (DCPS FY 2019 Budget ChapterPCS FY 2019 Budget Chapter) [ii] In the District’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget, there are $103.9 million ‘at-risk’ dollars for both DCPS and public charters overall. [iii] These are scores in English Language Arts, (2016-17 PARCC Scores). [iv] This is actually a conservative estimate. It assumes that ‘at-risk’ funds are being used to support every staff person beyond those positions guaranteed to every school by the Comprehensive Staffing Model, when most schools should also have other pots to draw from, like Title I. [v] DCPS FY19 Initial School Budget Allocations [vi] With a weight of 0.37 as recommended in the 2013 Adequacy Study, qualifying students would have $3,943 in additional ‘at-risk’ funds, or $175.5 million total (based off of a projected ‘at-risk’ subpopulation of 44,496). That is $71.6 million more. If the ‘at-risk weight’ were increased as recommended, and all else remained the same, schools would have $71.6 million more ‘at-risk’ dollars (or $1,609 more per-student) to invest in supplemental services for students overall, than the current $103.9 million total in at-risk funds, (2013 Adequacy Study).

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Free DC Preview Screening of Black Cop!

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 08:59

As I write this, there are only 34 seats left available. Don’t register if you can’t make it, but if you can REGISTER NOW!





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Anacostia River Festival

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 19:48

So, you want to enjoy the arrival of spring.  You’re thinking about checking out the cherry blossoms this weekend before all the petals blow away but aren’t thrilled about the crowds.  Consider the Anacostia River Festival at the 11th Street Bridge Park instead.

Take a canoe out to explore the River, ride in our bike parade, play lawn games with your family and experience Southeast D.C.’s local arts scene at this special FREE event. This year we are throwing a birthday bash for the 100th Anniversary of Anacostia Park.

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What’s the NEAR Act and Why Is It Necessary?

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 12:37

Tired of endless community meetings about violence in our community that do not end in solutions? Come learn about the NEAR Act, something that’s new to some folks but has already proven to be effective in other regions.  You can help make it a reality in the District of Columbia!

There are very real concerns about the violence occurring in our community. Thankfully, the District has a very promising opportunity to reduce this violence significantly with the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Amendment Act of 2016 (NEAR Act).

The success of this effort depends on the involvement of the community. Only WE can save us.

We will be joined by:

Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie who championed the NEAR Act as former Chair of the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety

Del McFadden, Executive Director, Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement

Marcus Ellis, Chief of Staff, Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement

This will be an interactive space, we don’t plan to talk AT you all night. We learn best as a community when we learn together.

The NEAR Act is one of the most innovative violence reduction efforts in the country. It is an evidence-based approach that embraces a pioneering program in Richmond California and builds on violence interruption models from cities as diverse as Chicago, Baltimore and New York. It addresses issues of community violence without resulting in the criminalization and mass incarceration we have seen since the 1980s.

Take Back Our Streets:  NEAR Act 101
Thursday, April 5, 2019
6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ
3845 S Capitol St SW
Washington, District of Columbia 20032

The post What’s the NEAR Act and Why Is It Necessary? appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Black Lives Matter DC Hosts Intergenerational Community Conversation on Gun Violence

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 10:43

In the weeks following the mass shooting in Parkland, FL, communities called on their legislators and school administrators to effectively address gun violence. In addition to conversations about gun violence, the Parkland shooting sparked dialogue about mental health, safety, police in schools, and the alarming move to arm school faculty. To the detriment of Black and Brown students, the national conversation fails to acknowledge that an increase in police and guns in our schools harshly impacts young people of color. Many youth also wondered where was this support when they were protesting for their lives against police gun violence and for solutions to intra-community violence. While thousands will flock to the District for the March for Our Lives, Black Lives Matter DC wants to uplift the concerns of DC youth. So lets come together and discuss the real solutions for DC.

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How Progressive Is the DC City Council?

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 15:35

We often think of the District of Columbia as a liberal enclave but have the liberal positions of the city’s council members led to the justice and equality sought by the residents they represent?  This Saturday’s candidate forum and a political scorecard provided by Jews United for Justice might shed some light on those council members whose positions lean left of center.

It’s An Election Year! Candidate Forum On Education 3/17 & Political Scorecard

Cross-Posted from Education DC
written by Valerie Jablow

Tomorrow, Saturday March 17, the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) is holding a candidate forum starting at 10:30 am in room 150 at McKinley Tech high school (151 T St. NE). Sign up is here, with an information sheet here. Candidates are expected to speak about issues surrounding public education in DC.

Council candidates from wards 1, 5, and 6 are slated to speak between 10:30 and 11:30 am. Then, at 11:30-12:30 pm, candidates for the two at large council seats will speak.

From 12:30-1:30 pm, candidates for the council chair will speak, followed at 1:30-2:30 pm by candidates for mayor.

[Confidential to DC voters: Our mayor has challengers! Now, maybe we will see whether politically “credible” = something other than a few million $$ in the bank.]

And just in time for primaries, the Jews United for Justice Campaign Fund has created a handy political scorecard for the DC city council, wherein the votes of council members on a variety of social justice issues (affordable housing, economic justice, etc.) are tallied.

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Citizen Reader: Information about DC’s Schools, March 2018

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 13:31
For those following the ins and outs of District of Columbia Public Schools, here in it’s entirety is the March 2018 edition of the Citizen Reader. I  PUBLIC EDUCATION

The Association of School Superintendents (, joined by more than twenty other national education organizations, is hosting the National Public Schools Week March 12 through 16, 2018. The week’s events are being co-chaired by six members of Congress who will give speeches in the Senate and House of Representatives and hold a press conference.

A statement on the above website explains the purpose of Public Schools Week saying “With the mounting changes in the education landscape, this campaign creates a platform for Americans to join together and express their strong feelings toward public education and why its success is a key determinant when it comes to our country’s future.”

The senators and representatives are Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator John Testor (D-MT).


● Morning of TUESDAY (3/13): Speeches on the floor of the Senate celebrating the great things happening in public education.
● Evening of TUESDAY (3/13): 1-minute speeches during which House Members share a story about the great things happening in a public school or with public schools students in his/her Congressional District.
● Afternoon of WEDNESDAY (3/14) at 2 pm in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 430: Press Conference for Public Schools Week. House and Senate Co-Chairs of Public Schools Week will share their support for public schools and specific legislation that supports public schools.
● Morning of THURSDAY (3/15): Speeches on the floor of the Senate and House if applicable celebrating the great things happening in public education.
● THURSDAY from 1-3 pm (3/15): Tweet storm using #PublicSchoolsWeek! We will be lifting up the floor speeches via social media.
● FRIDAY from 10-11 am (3/16) at the Rayburn House Office Building Room 2044: Panel Discussion “Understanding the funding streams that impact public school students” featuring: Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus; Stan Collender, Executive Vice President at Qorvis MSLGroup; and Sharron Parrot, Senior Fellow and Senior Counselor, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Moderated by Lauren Camera, National Education Reporter U.S. News and World Report.

For more information, including social media resources, visit and/or

More Important Dates

Monday, MARCH 19, 10 am in Room 412, at Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The Committee on Education will hold a Public Oversight Roundtable on The Future of School Reform in the District of Columbia. The purpose, according to the announcement on the Council’s website, “is to focus specifically on improvements to the D.C. Public Education Reform Amendment Act and other cross-sector issues.”

In addition, “it will be the first in a series of roundtables that will be scheduled during both daytime and evening hours to get the full engagement of the public.”

To testify, sign up online at or call 202-724-8061 by 5 pm Friday March 15. Written statements for those who can’t testify in person can be submitted by email to or postal mailed to Committee on Education, Council of the District of Columbia, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW 20004. Closing date for written statements to be determined.

On March 24, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today. March with us in Washington DC or march in your own community. On March 24, the collective voices of the March For Our Lives movement will be heard.

See for more information and to sign Petition.


 in conjunction with Ward 6 DC Council Member Charles Allen
Ward 6 Representative Joe Weedon, State Board of Education, and
Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization
Monday, April 9, 2018
6:30 to 8:30 pm at the North East Neighborhood Library, 330 7th Street NE
The information in this workshop will be provided in three ways.
1–Know Your Rights Discussion–lead by the Office of Student Advocate Team. 2–Individualized Mini-Sessions–to help answer your specific questions about the needs of your student(s).
3–Special Education Resources–list of special education resources including 504 plans v. IEPs (Individualized Education Plans), how to make a request for evaluation, annual reviews, and connections for organizational support.
RSVP at For more information, email or call 202-741-4692.


DCPS Performance Oversight Hearing Government Witness, March 1, 2018

Interim chancellor Amanda Alexander gave the government witness testimony on the performance of DCPS during Fiscal Years ’17 and ’18 to date. In her prepared statement she spoke of her experience in DCPS beginning as a kindergarten teacher in 1998 and going on to serve as principal of Bunker Hill and Ross Elementary Schools. She also led the redesign of DCPS’s principal supervision structure and served as an instructional superintendent of a group of elementary schools. From there she became deputy Chief of Schools, managing literacy initiatives and a district-wide task force to identify and implement strategies to improve student performance. Most recently, she served as chief of the Office of Elementary Schools leading the system’s elementary support and early childhood programs.

She gave three examples of changes in DCPS over the past decade—the overhaul of all aspects of the teaching corps, implementation of Common-Core aligned curriculum to determine if students were mastering basic skills, and increasing enrollment and opening of new schools.

While acknowledging the many problems that still exist, she said “DCPS is definitely not the

same district it used to be.”
In response to a question from committee member Robert White as to how, in light of

recently revealed problems, people can be confident that DCPS is on the right track, Ms. Alexander reported some information from a recent meeting between her team and the Instructional Superintendents.

The purpose of the meeting was to review the middle of the year (moy) literacy data. She explained that the data is viewed in quintiles, or five segments, that range from Well Below Average to Below Average to Average to Above Average to Well Above Average. They found that 23 schools had hit the Above Average and Well Above Average mark.

The schools are: Brightwood EC, Burroughs ES, C.W. Harris ES, Dorothy Height ES, Drew ES, Houston ES, Ketchum ES, Lafayette ES, Lasalle Backus EC, Malcom X ES, Marie Reed ES, Patterson ES, Payne ES, Ross ES, Seaton ES, Simon ES, Smothers ES, Thomson ES, Trusdell EC, Tyler ES, Walker-Jones EC, West EC and Whittier EC.

She concluded her response by saying that those increases in students’ literacy skills are the basis for her confidence that DCPS “is on the right track.”

Her full testimony can be read at under the Testimonies tab at the bottom of the home page. In addition to the Oversight Hearing, the Committee on Education also sends questions to DCPS each year which it then responds to in writing and sends them back to the Committee where they are posted on the Council’s website near the top of the home page. They provide many pages of detail on the inner workings of DCPS.


Recent education blog must reads

● At, by blog master and DCPS parent Valerie Jablow and not-a-boat-accident/, a guest post by school advocate Peter McPherson comparing the mayor in the town depicted in the 1975 film Jaws with DC mayors’ needs for a certain narrative on school reform.

● From Guy Brandenburg at Retired DCPS math teacher in a March 10 post entitled Ten Years of Educational Reform in DC—Results: Total MathCounts Collapse for the Public AND Charter Schools recounts his recent experience as a judge for the math competition for 7th and 8th graders which has dwindled to two students from past times when teams of four were common and won over private schools such as National Cathedral and Sidwell Friends. In addition he provides links to more than a half dozen articles detailing DCPS’s problems. One of them was written by Natalie Hopkinson, DC resident and writer, in the Atlantic magazine of September 15, 2010.

Also not to be missed

The Public’s testimony on the performance of DCPS at the Oversight Hearing on February 21, 2018 can accessed by video on the Council’s home page under Watch Hearings Live Some of the written public testimonies can be read at Scroll down past the Meeting Notes for February 20, 2018 to find them.


Speaking freely… A letter to the editor

Thank you for including the Network for Public Education’s “A Call to Action on April 20, 2018 for school safety against gun violence.” It is in the form of a letter from Diane Ravitch, a former education official in the federal government and the president of the Network.

I agree with the Network that gun violence in this country must be stopped, and I would urge that we, as citizens of the Nation’s capital city, show up on April 20 as Ms. Ravitch recommends.

I recommend, in particular, that those of us pushing for more effective gun regulations

press home the points to Congress and the White House that the crux of our gun problem is the easy availability of guns.

Within the Supreme Court’s guidance regarding the Second Amendment in the Heller v. District of Columbia case, written by Justice Antonin Scalia in 2008, it is legal and possible for the national government to take the following affirmative actions:

(1) Authorize and support research by the Centers for Disease Control into the incidence of death and injury attributable to the number of guns stored in residences, the number sold in a year in particular jurisdictions, or other measures which can inform us of the effects that guns have on our society;

(2) Establish, maintain, and at yearly intervals make available a national database, administered by the Department of Homeland Security with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of registered gun sales and ownership;

(3) Require background checks for all gun purchasers, irrespective of whether guns are sold by individuals, by stores, at gun shows, or by any other means.

Similarly, I recommend that we focus on the following prohibitions:

(a) Carrying or transport of guns in or near schools, day-care centers, medical facilities, college campus grounds, concert venues, public parks, government properties, shopping malls and areas, and houses of worship;

(b) Interstate transport of guns or other weapons, except by military forces or state or local police forces which are in the process of collaborating in pursuit of one or more suspects across jurisdictional lines;

(c) Sale, possession, or use of AR-15 or other assault weapons, bump stocks, large

magazines (more than 5 bullets capacity).

I believe these affirmative steps and prohibitions would bring down the incidence of gun- related deaths and injuries in this country. They ought to be regarded as a manifesto for our April 20 activities, moving the country in the direction of improved public safety. If enacted, these steps and prohibitions would constitute an effective resumption of our path toward “a more perfect Union” as contemplated in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States.

C. Ellis, DC father and grandfather

Citizen Reader is a project of Livingview Communications—a citizens’ information service that is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of democracy and the honor of all who have fought and died to equally participate in and protect it.

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The post Citizen Reader: Information about DC’s Schools, March 2018 appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Celebrating Black History Month in the District of Columbia

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 12:56

Cross-posted from The Citizen Reader

“Commemorating the History of the United States of America”

Photo of the Carter G. Woodson House National Historic Site at 1538 9th St. NW. The red brick house on the left is the Woodson Home, the yellow buildings on the right were incorporated into the site when the National Park Service, with the help of Delegate Norton and many others, undertook the preservation of this location of American history. Guided tours are offered on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 9, 10 and 11 am and 1, 2, 3, and 4 pm.  

Visit or call 202-426-5961 for more information.

“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.”

James Baldwin, Black English: A Dishonest Argument”

From Council member McDuffie’s Ward 5 Report of February 8, 2018:

“We have already honored Robert C. Weaver, who was born and raised in Brookland and would later become the first African American to serve in a cabinet-level position in United States history. We talked about Lucy Diggs Slowe, a pioneer in education and women’s rights who was the first dean of women at Howard University and lived on the 1200 block of Kearny Street NE. We learned about Woodridge resident William T. Fauntroy, a Tuskegee Airman who Councilmember McDuffie honored with a Ceremonial Resolution from the D.C. Council last year. And we highlighted the fact that blues and rock ‘n roll icon Bo Diddley lived and recorded in a home on Rhode Island Avenue NE.”

More commemorations around the city “Malcom, Martin, Medgar” February 22nd at 10 am and 1 pm
THEARC Theater, 1901 Mississippi Avenue, SE
Written and Produced by A. Peter Bailey
Directed and Produced by Carol Mumin of OFTON
& starring members of the Shabazz Family Ticket Price: $15.00. Contact OFTON at 202-387-5100 Discussion: History of Place: Barry Farm/Hillsdale, a Post-Bellum African American Community
Friday, February 23, 2018
11 am to 12 pm
Sumner Museum and Archives
1201 17th St. NW at M St
To register, call 202-633-4844

“Approximately 40,000 African American refugees came into Washington during the Civil War. They were destitute when they arrived, and the majority of them had to settle first on the streets and later on makeshift housing built from discarded materials. Anacostia Community Museum curator, Alcione Amos examines the establishment of the historic southeast community of Barry Farms/Hillsdale by the Freedman’s Bureau in 1867 to help with this problem.”

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. “
                               MLK, Jr.

The post Celebrating Black History Month in the District of Columbia appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Congress Heights Residents Bring Fight Against Slumlord to Cleveland Park

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 09:59

Developer Geoff Griffis wants to turn a rent-controlled Congress Heights apartment complex that he bought from Sanford Capitol into high-end, luxury condominiums.  Before he can do it, he has to force all the current residents out.  They will not leave without a fight.  Residents like Robert T. Greene, who participated in a march to the home of Geoff Griffis on Saturday February 10, is the featured in the video below.

Robert and the other tenants have formed the Alabama Avenue/13th Street Tenant Coalition.  The organization intends to buy the property themselves under the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).   With the help of nonprofit housing developer National Housing Trust, they would turn the complex into 200 affordable apartments.  But Geoff Griffis is doing his best to make sure they can’t buy the property.

ONE DC explains the case and asks that you join them and other anti-displacement activists like Justice First and KeepDC4Me.  Show up and …

Help the Alabama Ave./13th Street Tenants Association
Secure the Right to Buy Their Building Friday, February 16, 2018
DC Superior Court
500 Indiana Avenue NW
Room 518
Noon – 3:00 PM

The post Congress Heights Residents Bring Fight Against Slumlord to Cleveland Park appeared first on Grassroots DC.