Private Aid Urged to Schools: Smith Says Citizens Can Make Difference

Article excerpt

D.C. Schools Superintendent Franklin Smith said he wants to improve the city's public education but doesn't have enough money. Without the cash to implement new programs, he wants the community to help.

Two hours before pleading before a Senate subcommittee to increase the system's $495 million budget next year, Mr. Smith unveiled a plan called "Campaign for D.C.'s Children" in which he asked nonprofit groups, civic organizations, churches and parents to volunteer in helping to educate the city's 78,000 public school students.

"Maybe Congress won't give us more money, but there are enough resources in the community to substitute what Congress is not doing for us," Mr. Smith said at a press conference. He said he will welcome any kind of help, including making repairs in the system's 158 crumbling school buildings.

He said that the schools have suffered from budget reductions totaling $100 million since 1991. About $33 million in cuts ordered this year by the financial control board forced school officials to fire 430 teachers and to eliminate summer school and field trips. Six schools were closed to save on maintenence and repair costs.

"From the school system's standpoint, we have done our part," Mr. Smith said.

The superintendent said starting next year he will try to improve the system by ranking schools according to student performance and taking over those at the bottom for three consecutive years. Mr. Smith said he would consider hiring private management companies to run those schools.

Mr. Smith told The Washington Times on Monday that one private firm has made an offer to manage Birney Elementary in Southeast starting in the fall. Opponents to that plan point out that the company, Minneapolis-based Education Alternatives Inc. …