Today, Mayor Bowser vetoed the first bill of her administration. Disappointingly, the Mayor used her veto to overturn the
School Promotion and Graduation Fairness Emergency Act of 2018
, which I wrote with Education Committee Chairman David Grosso, and introduced along with Councilmembers McDuffie, Bonds, Nadeau, and Trayon White. We introduced this legislation for the sole purpose of helping students who were hurt by a District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) mistake. The bill passed the Council with a 12-1 vote.
Recently, DCPS came under scrutiny for graduating students who had more absences than the official DCPS attendance policy permitted. At the December 15, 2017, Committee on Education Public Roundtable, former Chancellor Antwan Wilson testified that the official attendance policy lacked clarity and that DCPS had not properly trained school administrators or teachers on its implementation.
In the middle of the 2017-2018 school year, DCPS began enforcing a uniform attendance policy that differed from the attendance policy schools had given their students at the beginning of the year. This DCPS action caused some students who were on track to graduate or to move to the next grade, to fail. In changing its attendance enforcement mid-year, DCPS had no regard for the impact on students who followed the rules their schools had given them. DCPS made a mistake, but the only people punished for the mistake were the students. That is simply unfair.
This emergency legislation, for school year 2017-2018 only, ensured that students who received a passing grade, notwithstanding attendance, would be promoted to the next grade or graduate. As a result of the Mayor’s veto, students who demonstrated academic mastery and followed their schools’ guidance will be held back, leading to more disengaged youth.
With the Council going into summer recess tomorrow, it will be difficult to override the veto despite having twelve councilmembers support the emergency legislation passage. However, I am looking at all options.