Northern manners, Southern efficiency

Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty can't seem to catch a break in his quest to take over the city's notoriously bad public schools. After assiduously massaging egos and playing urban politics so that the City Council would approve his takeover bid, Fenty has hit snag after snag. He had to overcome meddling legislators from Maryland and Louisiana (see here) and his own staff's slipshod school-plan plagiarism (see here). But now, more hurdles. The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruled in favor of a group of residents who want to force a referendum on Fenty's plan. If the group can collect 20,000 signatures by June 12th (a monumental undertaking), a special election on the mayor's school takeover will be set for August. Just another way to stall meaningful reform of the District's classrooms. The tribulations surrounding this process have one upside, though: they reveal all too plainly how the city's blundering bureaucrats, multiple bosses, and red tape stifle promising ideas and kill innovation. Anyone who wondered how D.C. schools could remain so lousy for so long now has an answer.

"Activists Push to Allow Vote on School Plan," by David Nakamura, Washington Post, May 30, 2007

"Schools Takeover Could be Delayed," by David Nakamura, Washington Post, May 24, 2007