Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who with Cory Booker and Barack Obama formed the triumverate of the “new wave” of black politicians emerging as national leaders, lost his re-election bid to Vince Gray, the D.C. council chair last night. A lot was made of race: polls showed that white voters overwhelming supported Fenty, while black voters supported Gray, which was significant in this rapidly changing city.
A key issue was schools, and Fenty’s controversial chancellor, Michelle Rhee. Fenty appointed and continued to support her, but Gray has been less clear. But it’s not just parents with schoolchildren who are invested in schools, as Dana Goldstein writes. Rhee tagged schools central to middle-class black communities as failing, and fired hundreds of teachers and and school employees, finding them inadequate under a new evaluation system. That’s a good thing for those of us who believe it was too hard to fire incompetent teachers in the past, but it’s a bad thing if that was your job. And a job in public schools, as well as the D.C. government in general, has always been a pathway to the middle class.
As Goldstein writes:
While many in the media champion these policies, school reformers so far have failed to make the case to communities, who see their local schools not only as student achievement factories, but also as storehouses of community history, sources of jobs, and even repositories of racial pride.