Review All Four Years of DC School Lottery, Councilmember Says

A D.C. Councilmember is calling for a review of all four years that D.C. has used a lottery system to assign students to schools outside their neighborhoods -- including some of the District's most sought-after and selective institutions. 

Councilmember David Grosso, who chairs Council's education committee, called for the review following an Inspector General report that contends former school Chancellor Kaya Henderson gave improper favoritism to a handful of city officials in 2015.

That favoritism isn't illegal. But it does shake families' confidence in the fairness of the school lottery, which many try to use to get into better schools outside their neighborhood boundaries.

"We've had 2014 and 2016 school years that have also been perhaps implicated here," said Grosso, who also voted on his committee's version of the 2018 school budget Thursday. "So we're going to take a look at it. We'll look at it on the committee on education. We'll see then if we need to refer it then to the IG to look deeper, and we'll go from there."

Mayor Muriel Bowser said she's willing to "work with the council" on a review. She's also called for the current schools chancellor, Antwan Wilson, to halt any future student referrals outside of the lottery until new ethics guidelines are in place.

"From our point of view, moving forward is what's important. I want the public to have full confidence in our system," Bowser said.

She said she understands the concerns of public school parents.

"I hear their frustration, and I want them to know that we are putting a system in place moving forward where there will be no question."

Officials at the Office of the Inspector General have told the News4 I-Team their investigation found seven instances in which Henderson "improperly used her discretion" as schools chancellor. Henderson announced her resignation in June 2016.

Henderson issued a statement on the controversy in April. "As the IG report notes, in my capacity as Chancellor, I made a very limited number of discretionary placements for students when extraordinary circumstances applied. I stand by those actions. The IG does not provide evidence that placements were made improperly, only that they were discretionary," Henderson's statement reads.

It continues, "I am deeply disappointed by these continual attacks on my integrity in an attempt to besmirch my personal and professional reputation."

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