For many D.C. voters, electing Muriel Bowser means more than switching out an embattled incumbent: It’s also a chance to take a stab at reforming the city’s primary education system.
Bowser’s platform is centered on overhauling D.C.’s middle schools by 2020. The plan would look to improve the physical infrastructures of schools and increase collaboration between charter schools and public schools so they can share resources.
Bowser, who defeated independent opponents David Catania and Carol Schwartz, will have to plan ways to reform struggling middle schools with lagging test scores in math and reading.
“I promised that the values of my campaign would reflect your values,” she said. “We believe in education reform.”
Bowser’s campaign spokesperson, Joaquin McPeek, said Bowser will put together an “education team” to re-evaluate city-wide education policies in public schools.
“At the end of the day, you can’t have a great city without great schools,” he said.
Across the country, mayors have made middle school and early education major planks of their platforms. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made headlines this year when the city launched pre-kindergarten programs, and he has focused many of his education efforts on middle schools.
Stephanie Maltz, a member of the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said Bowser’s Kids Ride Free program would help high-achieving D.C. students travel to schools with more rigorous curriculums than those in their neighborhoods. It would give students free rides on the D.C. Circulator and Metrobus.
Maltz said she first met Bowser at a campaign event during the primaries, and made the decision to volunteer for the Council member after she and Bowser had a one-on-one conversation at a campaign event.
“I’m excited to see how she moves forward on education issues,” she said.
Chris Sondreal, who has a child in kindergarten at the local Francis-Stevens Education Campus, was less inspired by Bowser’s education platform, and said he supported Catania in the election. He said while he wasn’t shocked by the results on Election Day, he said it was difficult to find out the specifics of Bowser’s plans to improve education.
But he said he supported Bowser’s plan to keep the D.C. public schools chancellor, Kaya Henderson. That pledge came after residents had a tumultuous relationship with former chancellor Michelle Rhee, who disagreed with parents on topics like teacher training days.
“Continuity is really good, because they have a really good sense of things that have failed,” Sondreal said.