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The DC Voter
League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia
Vol. 76, No. 5, May 2000

Celebrating Our 80th Year of Service, 1920–2000

733 15th Street, N.W., Suite 432, Washington, DC 20005
202/347-3020,  fax: 202/347-2522
Website:, E-mail:

President’s Corner
Brown Bag Dialogue
Million Mom March
News From the Units

May Unit Meeting Schedule
Thank You
Member News
International Relations
Education Committee

Restructuring the School Board?
Unit Meeting Discussion Questions
A Look at Charter Schools and Home Schooling
DC Representation in Congress

Restructuring the School Board? A Background Paper

Reservation Form for Bridge Party and Lunch


The vote on the restructuring of the School Board is still undecided. However, we are planning an informational General Meeting on this issue on Thursday, May 18 at 7:00 PM at UDC (see below). There will be a panel of speakers with a representative from the Appleseed Foundation, which conducted research on the quality of effective boards. We will then have two speakers-a supporter of the current system and a speaker in favor of the Council proposal. The following week League members will meet in Units to reach consensus when we shall either reaffirm our current position or reach a new position (See below and insert on "Restructuring the School Board?"

Also, please join us for the "MILLION MOM MARCH" on Mother's Day, May 14 when mothers, grandmothers, future mothers and all those who have mothers will call on Congress to pass sensible gun control legislation. Mistress of Ceremonies will be Rosie O'Donnell. We'll be meeting on the Independence Avenue side of the Air 8 Space Museum at Independence and 4th Streets, SW. Look for the LWV banner. (See separate article for more details.) Let's show support for the US and local League's strong position on limiting access to and regulation of ownership of handguns and semi-automatic weapons.

Elizabeth M. Martin, President

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Don't Miss Brown Bag Dialogue
Monday, May 22, 11:30 AM

Guest Speakers
Gladys W. Mack, WMATA Chair, Board of Directors
Alex Eckmann, Administrator, DC Office of Mass Transit
Michelle Pourciau, Chief of Transportation & Public Space Planning

LWVUS 10th Floor Board Room
1730 M Street, NW

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MILLION MOM MARCH For Sensible Gun Legislation, MAY 14, 11:00 AM-3:00 PM

On this year's Mother's Day the Mall will be the site of the Million Mom March. LWVUS endorses this effort to speak out against gun violence and calls on Congress to pass "common sense gun legislation."

Meet other Leaguers between 11 am and noon on the Independence Avenue side of the Air & Space Museum at Independence and 4th Streets SW. Use L'Enfant Plaza, Federal Center or Smithsonian Metro stops. Look for the LWV banner, wear some LWVDC identification (and comfortable shoes as every Leaguer knows.) Many Leaguers are bringing their children and grandchildren. Ceremonies are scheduled from noon to 3 p.m. Participants are encouraged to register, so as to obtain up-to-date information as well as provide information on likely attendance.

To find out more, contact the Million Mom March toll-free at 1-888-989-MOMS or visit their web site at

Barbara T. Yeomans, 3rd VP (National Program)

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As follow-up to stimulating General and Unit Meetings on Charter Schools and Home Schooling in March, Unit Meetings in May will discuss school governance questions as part of our effort to update LWVDC positions on education.

These Unit Meetings will build upon what we learn at a General Meeting on May 18 (see below). Also in May, there will be a bridge party & luncheon sponsored by the Chevy Chase Unit as a fundraiser for LWVDC (see flyer). Whether your commitment to the League stems from the opportunity it offers us to discuss public policy issues or from a desire to socialize with kindred spirits over bridge, you will find this month's Unit activities rewarding.

The next Unit Council will meet Monday, May 8, noon at the LWVDC office, 733 15th Street NW, Suite 432. — Sheila Keeny, Unit Director

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Tuesday, May 23
Southwest - 9:45 AM, Hostess: Anna Marsh, 554-7719, 1253 Delaware Avenue, SW
Northwest Day -1:00 PM, Unit Chair: Jeanette Miller, 362-1203, IONA House, 4125 Albermarle St., NW

Wednesday, May 24
Chevy Chase - 9:45 AM, Hostess: Sue Whitman, 966-8754, 3973 Harrison St., NW
Upper 16th Street - 9:45 AM, Hostess: Reggie Yancey, 726-1929, 1762 Redwood Terrace, NW

Thursday, May 25
Northeast Day -12:45 PM, Unit Co-Chair: Iola Pigott, 526-8315, Woodridge Library, Rhode Island & 18th St., NE
Northwest Evening - 7:30 PM, Hostess: Sheila Keeny, 966-1692, 3600 Albemarle St., NW

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Thanks to members who offered their homes for the LWVDC "Bed & Breakfast Program" - Morelia Hansen, Grace Savage, Kathy & Al Schmidt, and Sue Whitman. This service makes money for the League, makes it easier on visitors, gives us visibility, and is much appreciated!

Your turn to make $20 per night? We can use more hostesses both for convention (June 16-20) and other times of the year. If interested call, Chris Matthews at 269-3890 or

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We extend a warm welcome to new members: Melissa Bird, Betty DuPree, Karen Gray-Bums, Cecilie Jones, Holly Kwartler, Daphne McBryde, and Deanna Sessums who have joined the DC League directly and to the following who have joined the National League: Sarah & Marc Anderson, Nilda Aponte, Kathrine Dillon, Paula Echeverria, Edith Eder, David Glazer, Priscilla Goodby, Selma Janow, Julie Johnstone, R. Kenaston, Ralph Krause, Hilda Mintzes, Mary Jane Patterson, Kay Payne, Anita Pilch, Ida Prosky, Louisa Schwartz, Eleanor Seagraves, Susan Shank, Yasuko Shiraishi , Judith Walter and Diane Wilbur.

Yvette Hutchinson (now Hutchinson-Birdsong) tells us she married in November now lives in Orlando, FL and says goodbye to her friends in the DC League.

Many thanks to the members who sent in additional contributions to support the League: MacClaire Arlt, June Bashkin, Suzanne Campagna, Julia Cuniberti, Naomi Glass, Virginia Gorman, Patricia Hallman, Morelia Hansen, Natalie Howard, Norma Hutton, Joan Keenan, Clara Kirkman, Lois Laster, Martha Myers, Dr. Cereta Perry, Marilou Righini, Leona Rumsey, Grace Savage, Elaine & William Simons, Anne Meredith Smoke, Mary Weiler, and Barbara Yeomans.

Additional gifts to the League were received from Nelson Rimensnyder in memory of Irving R.M. Panzer, and from Clara Kirkman in memory of Ruth Mosley.

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Humanitarianism in general and Humanitarian Intervention in particular will be the topic for discussion at the next Great Decisions meeting on Wednesday, May 10. We will be joined by Lt. Col. Charles B. Shotwell, Senior Military Fellow at the National Defense University's Institute for National Strategic Studies and co-author of Humanitarian Intervention: The Case for Legitimacy. Great Decisions meetings are open to all; guests and new participants are most welcome. It's not to late to join - six topics, from The Military - What Role in US. Foreign Policy? to Africa - Prospects for the Future remain to be investigated in the months ahead. Call Sheila Keeny (966-1692) or Susan Rao (636-1688) if interested in becoming a regular member of our Great Decisions discussion group; better yet, join the International Relations Committee. Sheila Keeny, Co-Chair.

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The Education Committee will embark on planning for a study of Charter Schools to be presented to units in year 2001. The planning meeting will be held on Wed., May 10, 10 am to noon, at the League Office,. Please call the League office (347-3020) if you want to be part of this endeavor. — Constance Tate & Gladys Weaver, Co-chairs.

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A Voter Informational Forum
Invite Your Friends and Neighbors to Attend

Thursday, May 18
7:00 - 9:00 PM

UDC - Building 39 - 2nd Floor
4200 Connecticut Avenue NW
Van Ness Metro (Red Line) Stop

Restructuring of the current elected Board of Education is under review with Mayor Williams and the DC Council proposing a change from the existing elected board to a hybrid of elected and appointed (by the Mayor) board members. Voters will be asked to decide this issue at the polls either in a special election (possibly this summer) or at the fall election. In light of this proposal, the DC League of Women Voters presents this panel discussion to inform its members and the public of the pros and cons of each option.

Moderator: Shelly Broderick, School Parent and Dean, UDC Law School

Panel Speakers: Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Appleseed Foundation (will present research on effective school boards); a supporter of the current system; a supporter of the Council proposal

See separate insert for background material.

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Unit Meeting Discussion Questions

Currently, the League does not support or oppose either of the current proposals. Since the DC League's current school board position was taken 25 years ago and unit discussions four years ago found no wide support for the current position, it is time for the League to revisit our position to gain consensus.

The discussion questions can be found in the enclosed insert entitled, "Restructuring the School Board?" We encourage members to attend one of the May Unit Meetings (see above for date, time & location) and let your voice be heard.

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Charter Schools

On March 15 League members and guests met at Sumner School. Mr. Kent Amos of the Community Academy Public Charter School explained his commitment to charter schools and Ms. Nancy Van Meter of the American Federation of Teachers summarized the studies published to date about the recent growth in the movement.

Mr. Amos maintained that any applicant to a charter school must be granted admission. He said that charter schools incubate new ideas and a DC system of 100% charter schools .is a possibility in the future. He compared the federal government grants to higher education with what might occur with the charter schools. He announced that his charter school had been able to sell bonds for facility construction.

Ms. Van Meter emphasized that the number of charter schools throughout the county is growing. Studies indicate that they are attracting a decreasing number of minority students and have developed "counseling out" to discourage applicants with disabilities. One of the criteria used to evaluate the success of charter schools has been a waiting list of applicants, but she pointed out that traditional public schools must accept all students despite over enrollment. Although one of the reasons given in support of the charter school movement is innovation, there is little evidence that charter and traditional school personnel exchange ideas. Another reason has been the possibilities for new curricula, but most charter schools offer a traditional curriculum: in Michigan a "back to basics" curriculum has attracted many from the Christian academies-a situation which has led to questioning the involvement of a public school with the church.

Although many of the charter schools are smaller than the average traditional public school, class size is about the same or even larger. Teachers in charter schools nationwide tend to be less experienced and with less educational preparation than are those in traditional public schools. In conclusion, Ms. Van Meter divided charter schools into two groups - those founded by an individual who is dedicated to innovation and those founded by corporations for profit.

From the questions posed to the participants we learned that most charter schools are elementary or middle schools because the high schools are too costly to operate.

Home Schooling

League member Gladys Weaver and former League member and Voter editor Virginia Spatz spoke on March 16 at Sumner School about home schooling. Ms. Spatz described how she home schools her two children who have very different styles of learning and are of different ages.

Each morning they determine the activities to cover before the end of the class day about 2:00 p.m. workbook assignments, reading, visits to museums, libraries or the Capitol, or attending gallery talks. This year the theme for science, social studies, reading and math has been myths. She draws upon catalogs from trade and textbook publishers and the Jewish home educators' network. Although correspondence courses and "boxed" plans are available, she prefers individualizing her lessons. Cooperatives of home schoolers are around, and she depends on functions with other home schooled children to provide social functions for her children.

Ms. Weaver reminded us that home schools were the sole place for education in our colonial period. Today, the growing movement accounts nationwide for one percent of our children. She pointed out three problems certification, social development, and the law. The parent providing schooling need not have attained any particular education level. (Studies do indicate that home schooled have test scores comparable with or higher than traditionally educated children.) Limited interaction with other children raises the question of social adjustment, which may be answered by future studies. Education is compulsory in the United States, but which agency determines attendance in a qualified home school varies under different jurisdictions.

Reported by Kathy Schmidt, Education Committee, March 2000

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Survey Results

At an April 19 press briefing sponsored by the Coalition for DC Representation in Congress and addressed by League of Women Voters US President Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins, DC pollster Mark David Richards released the results of a recent national survey. Over 70% of adult American citizens favor full voting rights for DC citizens, but even here in D.C. there is no unanimity about the solution: 58% of DC respondents favor and 38% oppose statehood. These figures have not greatly changed over the past 20 years. Mr. Richards has also verified that 566 of US college graduates are unaware of the lack of voting rights for DC citizens. The task ahead for the LWVUS and the Coalition is clear.

House Parties

The Coalition held a well attended citywide forum last month and solicited 20 people who will serve as hosts for house parties. Interested in hosting a house party? Contact the office at 872-8683.

Video Available

To order the short video in support of full voting rights for DC citizens, send $5 (S/H included) to DC Vote, Suite 907, 1730 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tell your neighbors and any groups with which you have an affiliation.

National Convention

The League along with the Coalition will conduct a workshop at the National Convention on Sunday morning, June 18. The focus will be to encourage delegates to hold meetings in their home states, write letters to newspaper editors, contact radio talk show hosts, write letters to their Congressmen and Senators-all in support of full voting rights for DC citizens. The Coalition produced video will be shown at the workshop and made available for sale at the LWV-NCA mart.

In preparation for the LWVUS Convention in June, DC League members will wear eye-catching apparel with the message '80 YEARS WITHOUT THE VOTE' to call attention to Leaguers in other states of our plight. DC Convention Delegates will wear tricorner hats. A preview of the apparel can be seen at the Annual Meeting April 29` . A huge "Thanks" for contributing to the convention eyecatchers goes to Ethel Cooper, Coralie Farlee, Jean Fleming, Fran Garro, Frances Gemmill, Naomi Glass, Elinor Hart, Jean Jones, Barbara Luchs, Anna Marsh, Jeanette Miller, Mary Rodgers, Kathy Schmidt, Sue Whitman, Sheila Willet, and Reggie Yancey. — Kathy Schmidt

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National Convention. The LWVUS Board believes the NCA's position on budget autonomy for DC is included within National's position on full house rule powers for DC, but we will have to seek concurrence for NCA's position on the Federal Payment. So we've got our work cut out for us... before and during Convention. NCA Board member Elinor Hart will take the lead on this effort.

We received an interesting response from the LWVUS Budget Committee which we trust will be helpful when the proposed budgets are released and as we function at Convention. A second pre-Convention meeting is scheduled for 10 am on Friday, May 26 at the LWVUS office, 1730 M Street, NW, 10th Floor. By that time, delegates should have received proposed program and budget materials. The meeting will provide opportunity to discuss the materials and NCA member leagues' interests and how we can help each other. All are invited. Please call me if you want further information.

Plans for the Wares Mart booth sponsored by NCA and the State of Maryland League are well underway. Please call Beryle Lednicer (301-581-0343) or Joan Trafton (301-530-8567) if you can volunteer sometime or would like to discuss some wares you might like to sell. What a good opportunity to "network" with fellow Leaguers from around the country while filling our coffers.

"Whither the League" About 35 members from 10 local leagues met on a stormy March morning to consider problem areas and solutions. The discussion was lively and suggestive. A full report will be included in our Annual Meeting Workbook.

Transportation/land Use. The NCA Board agreed to cosponsor a meeting developed by the Washington Regional Network for Livable Communities. The forum on "Smarter Growth and Transportation Planning in the Washington Region: How Does the Region's Proposed 25-Year Transportation Plan Measure Up?" will be held at 6:30 PM, May 8, in Room 121, Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill. Three elected officials, the Honorable Chris Zimmerman from Arlington, the Honorable Phil Mendelson from DC, and the Honorable Peter Shapiro from Prince George's County will be joined by activists Michael Replogle and Allen Mushnick. Light refreshments will be available.

Please RSVP attendance only to Deborah Katz, WRN Coordinator at 202-667-5445 or email to DEBKATZ@MEGSINET.NET.

NCA Annual Meeting Reminder. NCA's Annual Meeting will be held Saturday morning, June 10, at the Arlington Hilton. Amy Liu, Brookings Institute, will discuss "A Region Divided," their recent study of transportation/land use concerns in the national capital area. All are invited. Reservations for brunch are $20 each. Please contact Mary Elizabeth Gordon (703 280-5186) for details and/or to register. — Naomi Glass, President

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CALENDAR: May 2000

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
  1 2 3 10 am LWVDC Board Mtg., LWVUS 10th Flr., 1730 M St., NW 4 5
7 8 10 am, Unit Council, LWVDC Office, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 432 9 June DC Voter Deadline 10 10 am, Education Committee, LWVDC Office
1 pm, IR Comm., "Great Decisions"
11 12
14 Million Mom March 15 16 17 18 7 pm @UDC, General Meeting, “Restructuring the School Board?” 19 12 noon, Bridge Party and Lunch
21 22 11:30 am, Brown Bag Dialogue, LWVUS Office 23 Unit Meetings, 9:45 am Southwest
1:00 pm Northwest Day
24 Unit Meetings, 9:45 am Chevy Chase, Upper 16th Street 25 Unit Meetings, 12:45 pm Northeast Day
7:30 pm Northwest Eve
26 10 am, NCA pre-national Convention meeting on budget
June DC Voter mailed
28 29 30 31    

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The DC Voter is published by the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia.
Tel: (202) 347-3020, Fax: (202) 347-2522, E-mail:, Web site:
President Elizabeth Martin; Editor Sheila Willet

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Are there structural changes that will make the District of Columbia Board of Education more effective? Over the past year the Mayor, the D.C. Council and good government organizations, including the League of Women Voters have explored this question. In February, the District's Council and Mayor presented their answer: a proposed amendment to the District's Home Rule Charter calling for a smaller, nine-member board with both elected and appointed members.

This background paper presents highlights of the research and debate on two critical structural elements: size and manner of selection. It is based on Reforming The D.C Board of Education: A Building Block For Better Public, published by the DC Appleseed Center; the deliberations of the D.C. Council; and the work of the Governance Task Force for Effective Public Education in the District of Columbia, convened by DC Agenda. The D.C. League was one of the 14 organizations participating in the Governance Task Force.


Compared to other urban districts, D.C., with 11 members has a larger board of education than all of the other 51 boards identified in DC Appleseed's survey of The Council of Great City Schools web sites. It is also larger than the boards in seven cities included in the DC Agenda report, Experience of Cities Where School Governance Is Working.

Testimony presented to the D. C. Council by the Co-chairs of DC Agenda's Governance Task Force, Charles Miller and Pauline Schneider states: "The single most important step that the Council can and should take is to reduce the size of the Board to seven members." According to their testimony, a board as large as D.C.'s "results in too much emphasis on electoral fortunes of members. It-tends to cause members to focus on Ward issues and not citywide standards and policy goals."

DC Appleseed's study also recommended a smaller board for several reasons: "Smaller bodies typically work better as a unit and are less prone to factionalism... The smaller the board, the fewer the number of people who can attempt to micromanage the school system."

There are, however, strong feelings against reducing the size of the Board. According to some opponents, reducing the number of local officials elected by District voters reduces the democratic rights of D.C. citizens.


The vast majority of school boards (97%) in the United States are elected. Improvements in education in several large cities that have recently replaced elected boards with appointed boards generated significant interest in the possibilities of appointed board in the District. Research conducted by both DC Appleseed and DC Agenda, however, indicates that appointed boards are not necessarily more effective than elected boards nor are they necessarily less effective.

The DC Appleseed study cites a number of ways that mayoralty appointed boards can benefit urban education. They include:

  • Clear accountability: When a mayor appoints a board, he or she can be held accountable for its effectiveness.
  • Potential for greater power: Appointed boards may have more power than elected boards. According to the Appleseed study, D.C.'s mayors have, during their administrations been able to obtain considerably more support from the U.S. Congress and the D.C. Council than the city's Board of Education.
  • Greater opportunity to improve coordination with other government services: Because mayoralty appointed Board of Education members would be directly linked to the Mayor and through the Mayor's office to other city agencies, the various governmental programs that serve the District's children could be better coordinated with the activities of the DCPS.
  • Balance of Expertise: Appointments can be used to make sure a board has financial, facilities' or other needed expertise.

The Appleseed study also cited the risk in making a public school system dependent on mayoral leadership. "If public education is not an issue of concern to a majority of voters or to the mayor individually, an appointed board may not foster public discourse and accountability."

While the Appleseed study did not include a recommendation for or against an appointed board, it did recommend that if members are appointed, "the Mayor appoint them from a list of nominees provided by a broad-based commission" and making "those appointments subject to D.C. Council approval."

Strong opposition to an all appointed board has been voiced by members of the D. C. Council and by numerous citizens. As one of the participants in DC Agenda's Governance Task Force said, "Anything other than an all elected board would be an insult to the residents of this city. How can we talk about wanting a vote in Congress if we don't elect our own school board members?" Others opposed to an appointed board claim that the Emergency Transition Board of Trustees is, in effect, the city's appointed board of education. They further cited what they consider the board's poor performance as an argument against an appointed board. Additionally, there are concerns that citizens and parents may not be as well represented.


The city now elects one member from each of its eight wards and three at-large members. The DC Appleseed study recommended replacing the pure-ward elections with a two-stage electoral system. First, there would be ward primaries during which voters in each ward would select two nominees. Next would be a citywide election during which one board of education member per ward would be elected. This approach to electing ward representatives to the board has proved successful in Seattle, Washington and was included in an early draft of legislation prepared by the D.C. Council's Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation. The concern about ward-elected members expressed in the Appleseed study "centers around their tendency to divide themselves into local factions, compete for resources and not focus on policies that benefit all schools."

Some participants in the DC Agenda's Task Force On Governance raised strong objections to the two-stage process. Their reasons for objecting included the increased cost associated with two elections and having to campaign in a larger area.


Currently, the League does not support or oppose either of the current proposals. Since the DC League's current school board position was taken 25 years ago and unit discussions four years ago found no wide support for the current position, it is time for the League to revisit our position to gain consensus. Attend one of the May Unit Meetings (see page 2 of the May DC VOTER for date, time and location) and let your voice be heard.


1. What, if any, of the board's structural characteristics have made it effective or ineffective?

2. How large should the board be? a. Its current size with 11 members? If so, why? b. Smaller than its current size? If so, why? c. Larger than its current size? If so, why?

3. What strengths do members elected from each ward bring to a board? Are these strengths essential for an effective board?

4. What strengths do members elected at-large bring to a board? Are these strengths essential for an effective board?

5. What strengths could members elected from combinations of two wards bring to a board? Are these strengths essential for an effective board?

6. What strengths could appointed members bring to a board? Are these strengths essential for an effective board?

7. Should all the members of the Board of Education be elected? Or, should they all be appointed? Or, should the board have a combination of elected and appointed members?

Prepared by Elinor Hart, DC League of Women Voters (April, 2000)

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