Serving Our Children: Charter Schools and the Reform of American Public Education

Justin Torres

Kevin Chavous, Capital Books 2004

D.C. city council member Kevin Chavous's book is a sometimes frustrating mishmash of the smart and the not-so-smart. Chavous is no education thinker and breaks no new ground here, but his support of charter schools is serious (he's taken political hits for it from the D.C. teachers' union) and he rightly sees them as a possible lever to push for systemwide reform. Unfortunately, he sometimes shrinks from the consequences of his convictions and avoids their logical conclusions, instead offering half-measures that simply tinker with the status quo. For example, he admits that the D.C. special education system (long in receivership in federal court) is a disaster, yet the boldest reform he can imagine is shifting procurement and reporting responsibility for special ed over to the D.C. assistant superintendent for academic affairs. (A real reformer might instead contemplate something like Florida's McKay Scholarship program.) Still, this book is worth reading for some of the horrifying vignettes of a system beset on all sides, such as the boy who lived in a hole in the attic of a D.C. public school for several weeks to avoid his abusive foster parents. And Chavous deserves plaudits for courageous leadership on charter schooling in the nation's capital. The ISBN is 1931868697; find it at