WTU supports lawsuit demanding Mayor obey Chancellor Selection Advisory Panel law

The composition of the panel advising DC’s Mayor on finding a public schools Chancellor is clear:

The Mayor shall… Establish a review panel of teachers, including representatives of the Washington Teachers’ Union, parents, and students to aid the Mayor in his or her selection of Chancellor …

The Mayor shall consider the opinions and recommendations of the panel in making his or her nomination and shall give great weight to any recommendation of the Washington Teacher’s Union (WTU).

D.C. Law 2-142; D.C. Official Code § 1-523.01

However, the 14-member panel selected by Mayor Bowser this past June had only a single student and a single teacher. As a result, a groups of parents and other public school stakeholders sued. The Mayor then expanded the panel, adding two students, two teachers and parent. Nevertheless, the panel still consists overwhelmingly of people who are neither WTU representatives, teachers, students nor parents. The plaintiffs did not withdraw the suit.

WTU President Elizabeth A. Davis wrote the following letter in support of the court action:

Dear Judge Wingo:

On behalf of the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU), I write to submit this letter of support for the Plaintiffs in their lawsuit entitled Jablow et al. v. District of Columbia, Case No. 2018 CA 5755 B, which is pending before you in D.C. Superior Court. Because of the short time available before a preliminary injunction hearing is held, I hope you will accept this letter in lieu of an amicus brief.

The legal requirement that the panel be comprised of parents, teachers and students was created in 2007 when Mayoral control dramatically restricted the public’s role in school system governance in our city. The Board of Education was eliminated. The Mayor was given expansive power. But at least there was guarantee of input from a panel of parents, teachers and students that would be required of the Mayor when he or she went through the all-important process to select a DCPS chancellor.

Mayor Bowser needs to follow the law regarding the DCPS Chancellor selection panel. The law clearly states that the Chancellor selection panel should be made up of parents, students and teachers, including representatives of the WTU. Right now, there is only one teacher, the head of the WTU, one student, and a handful of parents. Together they do not even comprise a majority of panel members while the law envisioned a panel predominantly of parents, students and teachers.

Several teachers I nominated for the panel, as the president of the WTU, did not end up on the panel at all. This is a very important point, because individuals the WTU nominates speak for 5,000 members of our bargaining unit, not just for themselves. And yet, the Mayor decided not to accept our nominees. The law is explicit that the Mayor must give great weight to the views of the WTU, but this has not occurred.

There is real damage being done when this panel does not comply with the law.

I served on the previous panel created to select the previous chancellor, Antwan Wilson, in 2016. I and other panel members were also appalled by the process that time. When this same Mayor convened the panel for its last meeting, we thought we would be given resumes of finalists to consider. Instead we were thanked for our service, given just one resume, and taken into another room to be introduced to the individual the Mayor had selected. Panel members were shocked at the disregard of our role. If the Mayor continues in this round to treat the panel and the law that created it with such disregard, then DCPS employees and parents will continue to have little faith that public input is being sought and considered.

No one is as affected by the qualities or as dependent on the actions of the DCPS Chancellor as teachers, parents, and students, including WTU representatives. The purpose of having a panel is to hear from a healthy representation of those groups, enough to represent the range of experiences that parents, students and teachers have in this diverse city – the different Wards, the different levels of schooling. One student, one teacher, and a smattering of parents makes a mockery of the intent of the law.

It is imperative that Mayor Bowser be required to follow the law, which clearly states that the panel must consist of these stakeholders—parents, students, teachers and representatives of the WTU.

This is why the WTU supports Ms. Jablow’s lawsuit.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Davis

WTU President