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Vote Allows DC School Board Reform

July 7, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A tally of absentee ballots Friday narrowly pushed through a referendum in the nation’s capital to switch from an all-elected school board to one partially appointed by the mayor.

The amendment passed by 843 votes out of 40,662 ballots cast, paving the way for Mayor Anthony A. Williams to appoint four of the nine school board members. The referendum was held June 27, but the absentee and special votes not counted till Friday.

Williams said he’s disappointed with the 12 percent voter turnout but that the next step is for the city to pull together.

``To achieve our city’s vision for a school system that works for every student, we must garner the energy of the people who spoke with their vote to energize the majority that did not,″ he said.

Proponents and opponents of the referendum have expressed concern that the vote broke along racial and socio-economic lines. Most voters in wards with heavy concentrations of black residents opposed the referendum while voters in majority white wards supported it.

``We have to see if the mayor holds true to his commitment to reach out and provide healing for the district,″ said Larry Gray, co-director of the Just Vote No committee.

School Board Vice President William Lockridge called the referendum, ``machine politics at its best.″

``It’s all about the mayor wanting to control the whole city from his office,″ Lockridge said.

The referendum faces a final challenge in D.C. Superior Court. A lawsuit argues the referendum should be thrown out, regardless of the result, because the Council did not give the referendum two readings.

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