Mayorsí Education Summit
HENRY OLSEN: Since most of you are from the Washington area, this is a man who needs little or no introduction. You are familiar with what he was able to achieve as Chief Financial Officer, bringing financial order to the District of Columbia and restoring self-rule to D.C. two years ahead of schedule. Heís serving his first year as mayor, but this isnít his first elected office. He served on the New Haven, Connecticut Board of Alderman previously and served as President Pro Tem there before coming to Washington.
He is a lawyer by trade and also holds a masterís degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. I hope you can join me in welcoming Mayor Anthony Williams of the District of Columbia.
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: What I wanted to do is just share with you briefly, our vision for education in the District and some of the steps we are undertaking, understanding that our vision for education is part of a broader vision for our city.
Our city is fighting first and foremost for the unified community planning process we have underway. Weíve sketched out a number of major goals for our city. First and foremost, unity of purpose in our city, building a strong community, showing democracy can work, realizing full democracy in our cities, is a very, very strong element of our agenda here in Washington, D.C.
Number two, economic development and rebuilding our communities. Number three, making the government work as a foundation for any of that to happen. This includes strengthening families. Then coming to the end, but really the beginning, we must support our children, nurture our children, giving our children some hope. Even recognizing that if you take a tactical point of view, a political point of view, investing in our children is the most important thing we can do for our city going forward. Itís the most important thing we can do for them. Itís the most important thing we can do for our city in terms of economic development.
Education and economic development to me are very, very closely related and itís the most important thing we can do for our own future and ourselves. Iím going to be retiring and I would like someone to support my retirement, and according to present trends right now in some of our cities, thereís going to be no one there to support us. So even from a self-interested point of view, itís important.
Now, I know I am speaking to the Manhattan Institute, and Iím in a heavily Democratic city. Because of that, I just want to share this note on my talking points. It is like one of these navigation warnings. ďThe Manhattan Institute tends to be quite conservative and your remarks are going to be closely watched by education advocates on both sides of issues such as vouchers, charter schools, and teacher accountability.Ē
So let me say, unequivocally, and categorically, I pledge allegiance to the flag. But I want to thank all of you for sponsoring this event and we want to thank all of you, for what you are doing. Because we really want all of our children to have the best education and I really do believe that this dialogue in some cases, across lines, is very, very important.
I believe, as I said before, that improving our childrenís education is fundamentally important to the future of our nationís capital. I believe that whatís important to our nationís capital is important to all of you as American citizens. Now, I happen to believe that our city has a bright future not only as our nationís capital, but as a center for international trade, as a center for commerce, and most importantly, for high technology industry.
Some of you may have read the Washington Post and the New York Times saying that Washington, D.C., the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, is now the largest concentration of technology on the planet. So we have a unique opportunity here and we want to seize that opportunity. But the question to be asked is will our students reach their full potential and take part in that new economy?
I believe we can meet our challenges and help our children reach that bright future ahead of them. It wonít be easy, because I believe meaningful change never is. Our view for change in our schools has really four components to it. The first is investing in schools and teachers. I believe that we have to ensure that every child has the best possible schools with first class teachers, the best in the region, certainly the best among major American cities.
I think we have to start by addressing the most basic facility needs in our schools. The facts of the matter are our children deserve to learn in a school where the roof doesnít leak. They deserve schools where the bathrooms work and classrooms stay warm in the winter and stay cool during summer school.
Thatís why, under our budget, we are investing around $400 million in renovation, modernization, and construction of public schools. Among a number of different things, these funds are going to pay for two new schools and they are going to allow us to renovate eight new schools a year for the next six years. Weíll bring our education system, certainly facilities-wise, into the 21st Century, giving our students access to modern technology and computers.
Modernizing our schools, to me, really means that we are creating a good learning environment for our students. Itís really showing we care about the environment in which they learn. Investing in our schools is a first step, but itís only a first step. We also need to place a premium on having the very best principals and teachers and, like it or not, itís going to cost us some money to do that.
Our schools are suffering in part because our teaching salaries are well below those of Maryland and Virginia. 70% of our teachers are now approaching retirement age. In the years ahead, we face a critical crisis or, inversely, a critical opportunity in teacher hiring. One of the first things I did as Mayor was to make sure our teachers received raises for 1999 and 2000, as part of building a more competitive salary structure to attract the very best teachers to our schools.
But because I believe in connecting pay to performance, we are also offering, I think, as a first of several steps, incentive pay for our teachers. This system is going to allow us to encourage and reward those truly excellent teachers who are going the extra mile to educate our children.
As Iíve said, we believe we canít leave any child behind and that means making a greater commitment to special education. I am personally alarmed at the state of special education in our schools and I think we need to make a new investment in special ed. We are working directly with the schools to see that we make improvements in special ed.
One thing that isnít mentioned here, but I really want to share with you, is the notion of bringing the very best principals to our schools. I understand that Professor Arthur Levin, President of Columbia Teachers College, calls for a rescue operation to give vouchers to two or three million children at the most poorly performing urban schools.
Iíll say more on vouchers in a second. I think one of things we can do immediately, and on which we can build a strong consensus, is to put the resources together in both the public and the private sector, and search this country to find 20 or 30 of the very best principals.
Experience and literature show that a real change agent can really turn school performance around, even in some of the worst environments, the worst conditions. We need those change agents and I am a strong believer in getting that public/private partnership to do that.
Now, the second part of my vision for improving our schools is having the right level of competition to give our schools an incentive to improve. I really believe this. Steve Goldsmithís a big leader of mine in terms of my thinking. I am a big fan of his, and I believe in managed competition. I believe in managed competition in that I believe we as government, enlightened government, positive government, have a role. But our role is to manage competition.
Our role is not a barbaric laissez faire; ďif you lose, too bad.Ē I donít believe in that. But I also donít believe that our role is to put our heads under the sand and pretend there is no competition. Managed competitionís gotten this aura in government that we are going to introduce competition. You donít have the power, itís above my pay grade, to limit or introduce competition.
The competition exists. The question is, are we going to manage that competition and give our citizens a chance to get better service? Manage that competition and give our workers a chance to be proud of the work they do? I believe thatís our goal, to manage that competition. I think competition can play a role of ramping up performance and bringing down cost. Thatís our goal. I believe it has that role and I believe it can have that role in our schools. Thatís why I support school choice to encourage our parents to get involved in finding the school that best fits the needs of their child.
It helps to hold schools accountable for better performance with our parents. It also can add to our neighborhood-building initiative. You can offer school choice and rebuilt schools, modernized schools, new schools, as part of that overall neighborhood development.
Washington, D.C., is right now, as many of you know, a leader in the charter schools movement. In fact, in the District, 1 of 11 school children is now enrolled in a charter school. No one believes, I donít believe, that charter schools are going to be a panacea, but I do believe that we have optimism that charter schools are good for our public school system.
In most cases, theyíve used their greater autonomy to innovate, to create learning environments for children and, very importantly, to get our parents more involved in schools. Theyíve also offered a public conversation on new and important initiatives and a discussion of where we should go. This discussion didnít exist before. All this pioneering and innovation is good. While our experience does inspire optimism, I think itís a cautious optimism for some reasons.
Recently, for example, one of our charter schools was shut down close to one month after schools opened. I am not raising the issue again to assign blame, but to make it clear that we should expect from our charter schools the same thing we expect from our regular public schools, that is, we expect results, we expect accountability.
So we are going to be watching not only their growth, but if students are achieving. We canít allow our city to become the "Wild West" of education policy without some oversight. Choice is good, but oversight is also very, very important.
One of the things we are doing in our city is try to create a sense of accountability. Weíre trying to institute the notion of a score card throughout the city. Sports teams have score cards, businesses have score cards. We want our government, our foundation community, our business community, and our faith community to have scorecards.
So in each of our neighborhoods, we are going to be teaming together to do certain concrete things. Maybe certain things along the lines of providing better recreation for children, educating children, providing better health care and clinics. What has our government done or not done, what has our business leadership done or not done, what has our faith community done or not done? That sense of accountability, oversight from the people, is absolutely critical.
Iím a big advocate for choice in education, but I have to tell you I donít believe that vouchers are right for Washington, D.C.. I think it makes a leap. I think it makes sense to offer parents a choice between public institutions that are open to all. I believe that when it comes to education, though, we should keep those dollars in public institutions.
My position has been itís too early to bring vouchers to the city. I know many of you may say, ďWhy is it too early? I mean, you are in a complete state of collapse. Performance isnít there. Achievement isnít there.Ē But I believe it still is too early. I believe we should exhaust a number of different options before we go down that route.
Having said that, I believe that private and parochial schools have an important role to play. Iíve formed a very, very strong relationship with Cardinal Hickey here in Washington, D.C.. Iím a product of a Catholic education. I went to Jesuit high school, I actually came out of a Catholic education.
It can play an important difference in a childís life. I wouldnít be here without that education. We have many, many great private and parochial schools in our city and we are indebted to Cardinal Hickey for working overtime, 24/7, to keep the parochial schools in the city open for business. In many cities, this isnít happening. Itís happening here in Washington, D.C., and I believe he deserves a lot of credit for that.
The third element of my program is reforming the way we think about education. I think that we are overburdened. Our approach to education has to recognize that much of a childís learning and development takes place outside of the classroom. The conditioning for children--whether they are ready to learn--is taking place not only in school but also outside of the classroom.
Educating a child, to me, means making an important commitment before school, after school, and providing a promise of a better future. Iíve teamed up with members of the City Council to launch an initiative that we are calling Safe Passages, which is designed to ensure that our children get the support that they need to make a passage from the early years, into school, through adolescence and into the job market.
We are going to be holding all of our agencies, the business leadership and all the different stakeholders, accountable for better performance in a publicly disclosed way, and demanding that we work together to achieve real concrete results for our kids.
One of the priorities we have is to increase access to early childhood programs so that when our children enter school, they are entering school ready to learn. Experience in other cities shows us that these programs improve school performance and save as much as seven dollars for every dollar invested. Thereís a real return on investment.
Quality early childhood and pre-school programs arenít enough in and of themselves. Young people also have to have access to worthwhile, wholesome activities during the afternoon hours. We know, for example, that juvenile crime suddenly triples in the hours after the school bell rings. Yet as many as 45,000 District students go without after-school programs of any kind. I am a big proponent of a curfew in our city. Weíve recently re-instituted the curfew and weíve advised our police, and urged our police, to go out there and take some names, get the kids off the street.
I also believe our kids have to have some alternatives to being on the streets, which is why weíve made a priority to change the situation by providing them--and weíve had a struggle with this, it was like the Battaan death march to get this--but we put together $15 million in what we are calling a Youth Investment Partnership. Weíve allocated $15 million that we are going to match with private sector help. We are going to match it with foundation help and with help from our churches. Weíll get around some of the Constitutional issues. We are going to provide our children with support outside of school, in athletics, art and other kinds of activities that give our children the character building, give our children the teamwork, give our children the discipline they need so that they are ready to learn during school hours.
We are also part of something we call the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, which as part of a crime fighting strategy brings together everyone who has anything to say about criminal justice in the city. You know, in Washington, D.C., as in any major city, people are always ready to talk about anything; whether they possess or convey any useful information doesnít matter. People are always ready to talk.
So we brought anybody who has anything to say on the matter into one room, to talk about a joint comprehensive criminal justice strategy. One of the strategies we are also pursuing, in conjunction with this out of school support for our kids, is breaking down the truancy rate. We have a scandalously high truancy rate in our city.
Now, itís scandalous because you shouldnít have the kind of truancy rate we have. Itís something like 30%, that, at any one time, 30% of the kids arenít in school. Itís a very, very high rate. If you look at these 30% who arenít in school, itís even more shocking. Many of these kids come from 2-parent families. Whatís even more shocking, if you take any one child who is brought into the police station, that child is very likely to have not even been in school. Many times that child canít even spell the name of his or her school, and doesnít even know where he or she goes to school because he or she hasnít been there for two or three months. We have to turn that around.
So weíve made a commitment to bring down the truancy rate at least 20% to 30% this next year. Itís all part of this ďgetting smartĒ policy with our kids, giving them this out of school opportunity. One Congressman had a great story. He was saying that he went to visit his family down South and he finally got down there. He got to his daughterís home and he said that heís going to take care of the kids. He opened the door and he said it was proudest moment of his life. It was an exhilarating moment in his life, he said, when he opened that door and that little boy came to him and said, ďGrandpa.Ē
He said the second moment in his life was when his mother finally came and picked him up a couple hours later. The moral of that story is, these kids have an enormous amount of energy. To me, kids really are like rockets. You look at all the literature now and all the experience. We know, if this child doesnít get the right support and nurturing and training at a very early age, itís like that rocket.
If that rocket isnít launched just right at the very, very moment of launch, by the time that rocket is 10,000 feet in the sky, itís already heading into the Atlantic Ocean. It is the same thing with a child. When that child is in the highchair is when you have to provide that support for that child, so you donít end up with that child in the electric chair.
Thatís what we are talking about. I go to any school here in the District, or certainly east of the river. You go to some of our schools and you look in the 5th grade. You look at the young boys in that class and you ask yourself, ďAm I going to stick with the status quo and allow at least one-half of those kids to end up in jail rather than in gainful employment supporting a family?Ē Thatís not a way to run a great American city, in my mind.
Now, the fourth part of our vision is very, very simple and that is education. Iíve alluded to this in a number of different ways already. Education is a shared community responsibility.
We have a lot of sideline, anchor booth color commentary. Everybody likes to say, ďThey should have done this, they should have done that. Tony isnít doing this. Tony isnít doing that.Ē
Certainly Tony plays a part in this, but itís not just Tony, itís us. We are Washington, D.C.. All of us have a shared responsibility. We certainly have a shared responsibility to educate and support our kids.
I believe if we want the best schools, it is going to take more than government. Itís going to take parents, itís going to take teachers, businesses, foundations, our entire community getting involved. Thatís why, here in the District, I am proud to tell you about a partnership with 15 companies and foundations. Weíve arranged to establish something called The D.C. College Access Program, despite a lack of involvement and disinterest among some of our major corporations here in the region.
Weíve gotten them involved in our city. Weíve gotten the biggest corporations involved in a big way. In addition to providing college scholarships, the program will provide as many as 11,000 students with college advisors in their high schools to help them navigate the complex testing application and financial aid process.
Weíve also begun working with our partners in the private sector to create something called the Technology High School. There was a lot of debate during the election about locating a prison east of the river. I said itís about time that rather than building a prison east of the river, we talk about technology and connecting our people to technology. So, working hand in hand with some of the major technology firms in the region, we are going to be building, and with their help supporting in a first rate way, access to technology for D.C. kids. I am very, very proud of that.
Now, to wrap up and to sum up, when you look at our city and you look at our city in comparison to other cities, youíll see that we face challenges of restoring faith of parents in our schools and justifying that faith every single day. Many times we fail, but we have to begin justifying that faith.
There wonít be any easy answers or quick fixes. There will only be hard work. But I believe that there is no task more important than what we are doing, more worthwhile than what we are doing, than supporting education. I believe that when we confront the challenges of education in our city, particularly in our inner city, sometimes it feels like there is only so much we can do. It can be overwhelming.
We know that sometimes, among all of us, we have a tendency in facing these challenges to withdraw ourselves, put our head in the sand and begin to believe that there is nothing that we can do. Oftentimes, when we think of being discouraged, we think thereís no hope. But I can tell you, when I think of sometimes having no hope, I really think of a number of different people.
First of all, I think of my mother. My mother is great. We grew up in an environment where my mother--you know, every mother lectures her children--when my mother would lecture us, she would start lecturing and then she would break into some operatic aria. She would go back to the regular lecture and then she would break into some parable, go back to the regular lecture, then break into some poetry and go back the lecture. Thatís my mother. A remarkable woman, and my mother did a remarkable job of bringing us up. We were brought up in a way so that even though both of my parents were postal workers, we never thought of ourselves as being poor. There was nobility in our home and it was nobility about commitment and sacrifice.
People say, well, you must have come from a rich family. No, I did not come from a rich family. But I came from a noble family in the sense that my parents instilled in us a pride and self-confidence that only great parents can.
Speaking of great parents, I also think of my father when I think of someone never giving up. My father was a decorated Army veteran in World War II. He was a captain in World War II in combat, highly decorated. This, for an African-American, was a distinct achievement.
Then he came back. No one had a parade for him. No one had a reception for him. There wasnít anything for him. All there was for him was work in the post office. My father worked in the post office for 36 years and he never took one day off for sick leave. He was a remarkable man. He raised eight children and, again, provided us the support so that we never thought we were poor.
Tom Brokaw calls this the ďgreatest generation.Ē I call African-Americans in that generation the ďgreatest-plus generation.Ē Not only did they go through world war, not only did they go through the Korean War or the conflicts, not only the Depression, but they had to go through the civil rights movement and everything else that was thrown their way.
So you learn about facing challenges and saying you are never going to be overcome. You are always going to keep moving forward. I believe that if my fatherís generation could overcome its challenges, we can overcome our challenges. I believe that we should be proud that we have never given up on the major challenges that confront us. So we should definitely not give up on another generation thatís following us. We shouldnít and I believe that we wonít. But we have to start now.
We are going to commit ourselves as a community; we are going to commit ourselves as a city; we are going to commit ourselves as a country to improving our schools. Itís a shared responsibility, but itís an important responsibility and we cannot fail. So thank you all very much for speaking here today and God bless you.
QUESTION: Your Honor, I am Adam Meyerson from the Heritage Foundation. In addition to your noble family, you mentioned the benefits of your Catholic education. Our own organization has just done a study showing that African-American students in Catholic schools in D.C. outperform African-American students in public schools in D.C., even when controlling for family conditions and makeup. What do you think that public schools can learn from Catholic schools about how to teach better?
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: I spend a lot of time visiting some of our parochial schools and visiting with folks involved in our parochial schools in the city. One thing we can learn certainly is efficiency in terms of overhead to actual delivery of education for students. Thereís no comparison. Thatís number one.
Number two is that there is a sense of modern practices, site-based management. But site-based management isnít really enough. Site-based management has been around for thousands of years. Think about the local parish. Everybody in the local parish was involved in holding that school accountable, the principal accountable. Thatís site-based management.
When I was growing up, my mother thought that the principal we had in 8th grade was too lenient. I donít want to go into all the stories of why my mother thought the principal was too lenient. So they got together, they talked to the sisters, they brought back Sister Dianatia. The vindicator, they brought her back and she set everything back straight, because thatís site-based management.
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: The schools right now are not under my authority. But again, I believe that itís important, you know, that we engage in these issues, and we have to. We donít have the luxury of saying itís someone elseís responsibility. I am trying to work with the Council to enact legislation so that all of our governmental changes here in Washington, D.C., happen on a local level, for a lot of different reasons. I could go into reform property management.
We can get these schools out of idle inventory into useful productive hands. Certainly charter schools are just one productive reuse of all these buildings.
QUESTION: Mayor Williams, I look probably friendlier than I am. If I ask you to come to speak at the Cato Institute, you might want to decline after I ask you my question. But, you knew you were going to get a tough question here at the Manhattan Institute. My question to you is, you say that itís too early for the district to get vouchers. But as you yourself said, the schools are largely failing. We have truancy rates of 30%. I donít need to go into the failings. You know the construction and buildings funds, and that some student achievement is so low. Spending is very high and you say we are going to do college advising in early education. It sounds like after-school programs are more of the same. If itís too early for vouchers now, if not now, then when?
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: Well, a couple of things. The after-school programs, I donít think are really more of the same, in the sense that we really have to organize this so that itís open to competition. We really have to structure it so that itís open to new ideas, itís open to partnerships, so that itís not just the government doing this, but any number of different providers working in partnerships.
So I donít think the after school youth investment partnership is just more of the same. To me, vouchers are about choice, they are about accountability. They are about creating a sense of urgency. Right now, I believe that the highest number of charter schools is being formed in the country. There is that sense of competition, there is that sense of urgency and accountability. I know that wasnít completely satisfying, but thatís what I believe.
MAYOR BRET SCHUNDLER: I just want to further one idea. I am Mayor Schundler from Jersey City. The fear I have with the competition of charter schools is that if we donít have the competition against a less-regulated competitor, you can potentially have competition between organizations that have increasing amounts of impediments to do whatís necessary to help children.
That is certainly what the leaders of the Education Association is trying to do in New Jersey. They see charter schools doing very well. They want to try to kill them with regulation. ďLetís hurt them so that they cannot compete successfully any more.Ē
Youíll still have charter schools, but they may not be totally effective. By having vouchers, you are going to have a situation with prohibitions against government interference. You have a competitor whom government just cannot destroy. That allows that competition and demands that government respond to the competition towards the children. That in effect eliminates competition through regulation.
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: I agree with that. I think that, yes, oversightís one thing, but trying to regulate the charter schools out of existence to eliminate the competition is another. I agree.
MAYOR BRET SCHUNDLER: I feel the voucher is necessary then because it frees the competitor whom the government cannot regulate today.
QUESTION: Another voucher question for you. I just want to know, well, first point: Are you aware of polls from the District of Columbia favoring free choice? According to a poll published in the Washington Post, a majority of people are in favor of vouchers. Of course, the Washington Post released this information only after President Clinton vetoed the D.C. pilot program. In Florida, Governor Bush said ďshow me why we need school choice,Ē and thatís what we did. So what do we need to give you to prove to you that we need vouchers to distribute and we shouldnít let our children wait and fail miserably while we fix the problem?
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: I donít want to just keep repeating over and over. I think that we want to inject a sense of urgency. I think we want to provide our citizens choice. But I think itís also important right now, in our city, we are trying to show that democracy can work in this city. We are trying to show that community can really work in this city. I think itís important in rebuilding a city, in achieving a notion of a great city, that public space be valued space. To me, I am troubled by this notion of just casting off right now, at this point, any hope in public schools, which I think you are doing with vouchers.
QUESTION: I have non-voucher questions. Are you satisfied with the academic standards to which the District schools aspire? What do you think about the academic standards to which District schools aspire?
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: I think that, again, my whole notion of a public score card, public accountability, is ultimately the public ought to set that standard.
QUESTION: Results of tests?
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: In our city, we ought to be talking about school governance. We are talking about the advisability, appropriateness, of having a state education office or officer who would be separate from the schools and be able to set these standards and do this benchmarking. Thatís something that we are looking at. I do believe you shouldnít have the fox monitoring the hen house. So I do think there ought to be some separation. We are trying to do that in the government.
We have something weíve done in our government called -- it sounds like a singing group -- the testers. The testers are what in your normal corporation would be called quality control. In our government, we are building something called testers and they go around, they evaluate our customer service -- sometimes the lack of it -- evaluate how we are answering phone calls, responding to mail. Then they independently give us some evaluations of how we are doing, help us establish a base line, help us establish this notion where we are trying to go.
Let me give you a concrete example. Weíve gone out around our city. We are shortly going to be announcing the work of these folks in establishing the lack of, frankly, cleanliness right now in the city. So here is our baseline, help use this group and our citizens on where we want to go and you can hold us accountable on whether or not the streets are cleaner or not. Thatís what I believe in, public accountability.
QUESTION: First of all, I came from Indianapolis to hear your comments out here. On that same question though, what do you think their goals say about competition? You actually have to be able to let the money flow out of the system. How can you have managed competition in education?
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: I donít want to be a lawyer, but Iíve got to just stipulate, we got a disagreement on vouchers. Iím sorry, but we do.
QUESTION: I hope to twist in a voucher question. What do you tell parents who want to send their children desperately to Catholic or some other sectarian school? You cannot afford the $3,500 or $1,000 a year. I know you said that your family sacrificed, but sometimes the sacrifices are too great. What do you tell the parents who find themselves in that situation?
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: Iíd said that I respect their choice. With the ways and means that we have available, we try to support them with that choice by trying to support our parochial schools in every way we can Constitutionally. But vouchers arenít one of them.
QUESTION: What about the Constitution?
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: I believe that weíve got the try to help our parochial schools. But youíve got to be careful of all these Constitutional restrictions.
QUESTION: Would you operate score cards, and what kind of score cards?
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: Itís all part of our setting up performance measures that help drive a budget. How much is it costing to clean the streets? How much is it costing us to educate our children? How much is it costing us to do any number of different things? I can get very technical and there is going to be a lot of drudgery to it and dreariness. So I think what we have to do is, subtract from that, some clear, maybe itís five or six things, in each key area, that the public can gravitate to.
Take baseball. Thereís thousands of statistics about baseball. But in the popular mind thereís some key things: home runs, number of hits, ERAs. There are some clear items on a score card that we use. So, for example, in one of our neighborhoods, I think what we ought to be doing is taking our schools, comparing our schools which are similarly situated, schools in distress and crisis, and how well are we doing, in comparison to those schools, digging ourselves out of a hole.
Thatís one example. So in terms of student achievement, hereís where we are. Hereís where we have a right to go and hereís how we are doing on that path. In every neighborhood with every school, there ought to be that expectation.
QUESTION: Are you encouraging your school board in their school systems to take themselves more as a broker for the kids and the families rather than a direct provider of education? In other words, having classroom proposals in other ways and trying to get the education providers into this market?
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: We are trying in our labor management negotiation to introduce to the city managed competition in general as part of a broad labor strategy for the city. I think more competition in the operations of education is not only appropriate, but also essential. But this is a hard road for a lot of different reasons. One, there has been, historically, some outsourcing of certain entities of government here to vendors that have not been reliable. Some of it has been disgraceful. Thatís a problem. Thereís also a problem in that itís very, very difficult to achieve change in a labor management context.
I think also thereís a problem in terms of operations in the schools of moving this along. Use the analogy of a thousand-mile front. If you have a thousand-mile front, you are going to advance an inch. If you have a 10-mile front, you may advance, you know, 10 to 20 miles. We put in over $300 million for school modernization in the schools. Then there was a story in the paper about three weeks ago about a child crawling to the bathroom.
What youíve got to say is, weíve got the resources here, letís get some points on the board. One of the places you want to start with an extreme sense of urgency is just fixing the bathrooms, and why that doesnít happen is because there isnít enough shaking up in the operations end of the place. I donít have a lot of faith in the school board brokering anything.
The charter school board has done a good job in setting up, managing the charter schools. The regular board of education has not proven itself equipped to do that and any number of other things. We are having a big discussion right now in the city, managed by the chair of the education committee and the Council, to look at a number of different alternatives and I strongly support him in that. Because the Board of Education is not getting the job done.
QUESTION: Your Honor, a few minutes ago, when you drew a comparison between parochial schools and public schools, you that they do so much better in the resources and I see that more of those resources do get into the classroom.
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: Well, also the site-based approach.
QUESTION: Certainly. Whatís your attitude towards giving parents much greater autonomy over the use of resources in their schools?
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: I strongly support it. I have this image of being micro manager with my managers. Thatís not true. I wouldnít be here without heavily delegating to my people. I believe in hiring the very best people and then delegating to them. I think if I were running the schools, one of the things I would do is hire the very best. To me, itís not rocket science. Hire the very best principals, make sure you have the very best principals, particularly in the schools that are in the most trouble and then give them headway to get the job done. We donít do that right now.
QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, Jonetta Rose Barras from the Washington Times. You talked earlier about the whole commission that you wanted to create that would in some way, look at or manage or monitor the education system. You keep talking about, also, that you basically donít have any control. There is a school board and a superintendent that operates independent of you and yet you have all these ideas and all these hopes and aspirations.
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: So we have been very, very supportive of the schools. Yet I have a broad community building strategy I talked about earlier. Weíve had a series of retreats, as everybody has, with our managers. We invited the schools to come to the retreat. The schools didnít show up. I am the Mayor, I call over there. You call my office, sometimes you donít get your phone call returned because we are building, we are trying to get our act together, and Iíll be honest with you okay.
But for the mayorís office to call the school, youíd think we have some response. Many times we donít have a response and thatís not acceptable. So we are going to have a discussion. We need to see some progress. Any other questions on vouchers, no, Iím just kidding.
QUESTION: Robert Meyer from the City of New York Independent Budget Office. I want to hear more about the incentive pay, whether itís a proposal or whether itís something you already passed or are in the process of passing, and what types of incentives youíll use, and how you will determine whether the performance standards are being met?
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS: Where the performance standards are being met, again, we believe that we ought to use independent comparisons of other jurisdictions, what they are doing as kind of a benchmark from where we should be. Get citizen input on where we are and where we should go. I believe in that.
Weíve already begun to build incentives, particularly for new teachers. Because I think rather than doing a lot of heavy lifting with the teachers who are already on board, if we are going to have 70% turnover in the schools, letís focus our attention on building new standards, tough standards for the teachers who are coming in. We are beginning to do that. We are going to be enlisting help from outside of government to expand on the incentives that we offer teachers.
Some of the things that we already have in place and we are going to be building on, for example, housing incentives, benefits incentives that go above and beyond actual pay. We are talking about pay as well. Particularly, again, in this area of recruiting the very best principals, which I canít underscore enough. I think itís very, very important.
HENRY OLSEN: Iíd like to thank the Mayor for coming today. I thought it was very interesting, if one in 11 students are attending charter schools and if D.C. were a state, it would have the highest percentage of any number of students attending charter schools. This shows that choice is really operating here in the District.
I also want to thank you for your courage coming in and engaging in ideas on a sensitive subject, something that doesnít happen enough in politics and I appreciate your coming. Thank you.