Amid school lottery controversy, DC mayor finds ‘fault’ in process

WASHINGTON — Responding to a controversy involving the D.C. Public Schools lottery system, Mayor Muriel Bowser said the rules surrounding who is allowed to bypass the lottery are too flimsy and need to be tightened.

“There’s some fault in the process,” Bowser said Thursday.

Her comments follow an investigation by D.C. Inspector General Daniel Lucas that found former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson was not impartial in placing the children of government officials and other individuals in select public schools.

The report said Henderson gave seven parents preferential treatment by allowing them to bypass the District’s competitive school lottery system.

“We think it’s important to have some parameters there so that it’s very clear how the chancellor should address those discretionary placements,” Bowser said. “I don’t think that we have a tight enough process, and we’re going to fix that.”

The names of the seven parents were not provided in the report.

However, one of them was identified by The Washington Post as D.C. Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity Courtney Snowden, a Bowser appointee.

The report indicated that a second mayoral appointee was among the parents, although Bowser disputed that.

“We believe that there’s an error,” she said. “The facts don’t match with what we know.”

Bowser said she believed the inspector general mistakenly listed City Administrator Rashad Young, whose children participated in the lottery system, among those who received special treatment from Henderson.

When asked by reporters to offer her opinion of the parents’ actions, Bowser pointed to the inspector general, saying his investigation did not find that the parents necessarily did anything wrong by asking the chancellor to place their children in a school.

Still, some find it troubling that “insiders” would ask the chancellor for favors.

“It’s very frustrating,” said D.C. Council member David Grosso, who chairs the council’s education committee. “There are these waiting lists to get into schools. If you can get in just because you know somebody, that just cuts into all the credibility.”

Antwan Wilson, the new chancellor, took over after Henderson resigned last year.

“I have a meeting set up with the new chancellor to make sure that, as we move forward, he uses better discretion,” Grosso said. “I hope he will take a different approach.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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