Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cutting through D.C. double talk

"The grants being announced today are not
related to those (Michelle Rhee's) efforts."--Washington Post

Anytime I see the words Gates, World Bank, Fannie Mae and community engagement in the same sentence, I do a double-take. But there's something about Phillip Rucker's story ("Grants Will Aid Groups Working for Education Reform"), in Friday's WaPo that made me scratch my chin and go, "hmmm."

It wasn't just that Gates, Fannie Mae, and the World Bank, of all people, are putting up (a measly) $725,000 in grant money to support a "community engagement" piece in D.C. school reform initiative. I'm glad the five District non-profits are getting a little operating money and I'm sure they will find good ways to spend it regardless of what the givers' intentions may be.

No, what made me scratch was this :

The grants come as Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) are trying to raise $75 million a year from businesses and private philanthropies to fund their education restructuring efforts. The grants being announced today are not
related to those efforts.

If these community-engagement grants have been consciously distanced from the pot of business dollars controlled by Supt. Rhee and Mayor Fenty, why then, this next quote from the World Bank's Vicki Betancourt?

Viki Betancourt, community outreach manager at the World Bank, said the grants will help build "community will" around Rhee's efforts. "It doesn't immediately influence the reforms directly," Betancourt said. "What it does is gets parents and community members engaged in talking about these reforms and becoming active."

It will take a lot more than $750K and more than just getting folks talking, to build community will for the Rhee/Fenty school-privatization program, especially when they admit up front that the funded programs will have no influence over the reforms.

So, maybe someone from D.C. can write in and cut through all this double talk?

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