In the News: Secret Report Shows ‘Special’ Treatment for Public Officials in D.C. School Lottery

In Washington, D.C., a report by the Inspector General’s office has found that the former schools chancellor allowed some well-connected parents with political clout to bypass the lottery and enroll their children in D.C. public schools of their choosing, Peter Jamison and Aaron Davis report in the Washington Post.

Former D.C. Public Schools chancellor Kaya Henderson has not denied that she used her power to place the children of government officials in high-demand schools, even though those schools had long wait lists.

According to the report, she told investigators that she was “thoughtful and judicious in her decisions and did not hand out the discretionary placements ‘like candy.’ ” Henderson said she “understood the appearance of impropriety” but “believed she had the discretion to place any student in any DCPS school.”

Jamison and Davis explain

Under D.C. regulations, the schools chancellor has the power to place students directly into schools, regardless of their lottery results, but that authority is supposed to be limited to cases when it “would be in the best interests of the student” and “promote the overall interests of the school system.”

(Last month, the New York Post reported that the deputy mayor had pulled strings to get his child into a top public school in Brooklyn.)

The D.C. public school system has been held up as a success story in recent years and policy wonks have discussed whether the city’s mix of charter and traditional district schools should be a model for other cities. But while there are now many outstanding public schools in the District, there clearly aren’t enough of them.

— Education Next


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