Erin Palmer campaigns against Phil Mendelson in race for DC City Council Chairperson

Isadora Groves

Next June, Erin Palmer will challenge Phil Mendelson, current D.C. City Council Chairperson, for his seat. The winning candidate and future Chairperson will have significant influence over D.C. public schools.

The D.C. City Council is a legislative body with thirteen representatives and its control over D.C. schools is exerted in two major ways. The first is by legislation and the second, controlling the budget. According to Erin Palmer, “whether it’s school librarians, access to technology and high-quality Internet, hybrid learning, or healthy school food, the DC Council can, and should, legislate to ensure students’ needs are met.” 

While the budget is proposed by the D.C. Mayor, the Council may exert control by adding, changing, approving or disapproving that budget.

On the Council, the Chairperson is arguably the most influential figure on public education in D.C. Especially now, as earlier this year, Phil Mendelson disbanded the education committee. This act of dissolution leaves the committee of education under the Council as a whole, which Mendelson chairs. He received some criticism, but defended his actions by asserting that K-12 oversight will remain the same with or without the committee.

Erin Palmer, currently an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for Ward 4 and former ethics lawyer, disagrees. When asked by the Beacon about this issue she responded that. “In the face of the greatest education crisis in recent memory, the current Chairman disbanded the Council’s Education Committee, which could have helped ensure better oversight, accountability, and the ability to plan comprehensively. One of the first things I’d like to do is reconstitute the Education Committee to ensure strong, consistent Council oversight of education issues,” Palmer said.

Palmer also noted that if elected, she would focus on effective communication and accountability: “I believe in consistent communications and outreach with communities, including kids and young adults.” Palmer added she wants to “work every day to ensure the programs and services funded and offered by the DC government reach residents and serve their needs well and efficiently.”

In public statements he emphasized his focus on public school education. Recently, Mendelson and the Council voted to expand the number of available spots for virtual learning across the district, increasing the number of seats by 350. If he wins the election, he will be the longest serving D.C. Chairperson in Council-history. 

With the candidates’ focus on education,Wilson students and staff emphasized their concern regarding a lack of resources and overcrowding. With a rapidly increasing student population, Wilson already has over 2,000 students. 

“I got kicked out of my art class because there were too many students, and now I am taking two PE classes in this semester alone,” freshman Arden Luckett said. 

Another freshman is concerned about funding and support for her crew team. “Crew should be funded by DCPS. They won 1st at the head of the Charleston race and should be given more support.” 

Teachers expressed desires for more resources including nutritious food for students, and classroom materials. 

Although most students at Wilson cannot vote, they may want to get involved to support a candidate. Students are able to sign up for Palmer’s campaign, where they can have the opportunity  to go door to door, host meet and greets or phone bank. Students can also donate to Mendelson’s campaign.•