The District may see an overhaul of Mayor Fenty’s approach to education reform following Vincent Gray’s primary election victory on Sept. 14. Gray’s election also signals less far-reaching changes for the Georgetown neighborhood, which voted for Fenty.
The close election resulted in Gray carrying the city 53 to 47 percent. He won in the majority of wards, most notably Wards 7 and 8, across the Anacostia River. Mayor Adrian Fenty won Ward 2, which includes Georgetown, by over 70 percent, according to The Washington Post.
Fenty’s platform focused on the successes of his term, namely the reforms to the D.C. public school system that led to D.C.’s selection by the Obama administration as a winner of education grant money from the Race to the Top contest. Many vocal proponents of education reform in the city felt that Fenty, with his hand-picked chancellor of D.C. public schools, Michelle Rhee, had drastically increased the quality of performance and the student experience in the District.
“Improvement was actually significant in every area, test scores, classrooms – every piece of DCPS operated more effectively,” Nathanial Roloff, program director for the university’s DC Reads program, said.
Roloff argued that Rhee is responsible for much of the success. He said she attracted qualified employees and grants to the school system but said that Fenty also deserved credit for his willingness to invest money and effort in educational reform.
After the Sept. 14 primary, however, the fate of both Rhee as chancellor and the reforms may be in jeopardy. Also in question are the futures of DCPS and DC Reads.
“A lot of the programming [for DC Reads] has been done by working with the DCPS under Rhee, which gave them access to the system in ways they didn’t expect through Outside the Classroom and vetting programs,” Roloff said.
“A lot depends on who Vincent Gray chooses as schools chancellor; if Rhee leaves and a strong leader doesn’t replace her, there is a lot of opportunity for faltering,” he added. (To read a separate, full-length interview with Roloff, see page A4.)
Gray has pledged plans for improving high school graduates’ access to higher education and their ability to enter the work force. His campaign literature points to statistics that show only one in 10 graduates of D.C. high schools completes college. According to his campaign website, Gray promises to double the number of high school guidance counselors and create more financial aid programs.
As D.C. Council president, one of Gray’s main achievements was the passage of the Pre-K Enhancement and Expansion Act of 2008, which focused on providing universal pre-kindergarten to 3 and 4 year olds by 2014.
Gray’s election will also have consequences for the Georgetown neighborhood. The primary issue relating to Georgetown that the candidates had sparred over was parking. Fenty extended parking meter hours to 10 p.m. throughout the city, including within Georgetown’s historic district, to increase revenue for the city. Gray has told voters he will return parking meter hours to their original times, from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
According to The Georgetown Metropolitan, Gray did not commit to any clear solution to the dearth of on-street parking in the Georgetown neighborhood. Both the majority of the community and Fenty supported the idea of performance parking, which would have added more parking meters on the streets of Georgetown. Currently, many street-side parking spots do not levy charges on drivers.
At a debate in Georgetown on Sept. 10, Gray said he did not fully support the idea of performance parking. Instead, he cited the importance of mass public transportation in creating more free space on the streets, according to The Georgetown Metropolitan.
Local groups such as the Citizens Association of Georgetown expressed concerns with the amount of parking spaces available. Gray addressed this matter and other neighborhood concerns, including the 2010 Campus Plan, at the debate. While Gray was well-informed on the details of the proposal, he said the ultimate decision was up to the D.C. Zoning Commission and that Georgetown must be accommodating to residents.