Marion Barry’s Education Legacy

I was deeply saddened yesterday morning to learn of the death of D.C. Ward 8 Councilman and former Mayor Marion Barry. Throughout his long career as a politician and advocate, Barry was a passionate advocate for justice and opportunity for the most disadvantaged people and communities in Washington, D.C., as well as for the District itself.

As befits one of the most fascinating political figures in recent history, Barry’s education legacy is a complicated one: His first political office was as a member and Chair of the D.C. School Board, where he stood up to Congress on education funding issues and supported the appointment of the nation’s first black, female big city superintendent. As Mayor from 1979-1991, Barry’s emphasis on using government programs to create jobs contributed to the dysfunction of the D.C. school bureaucracy. Over the past decade, as Ward 8 Councilman from 2005 until his death, Barry has been a strong advocate for expanding high-quality education opportunities for disadvantaged youngsters in D.C., and a particularly strong supporter of D.C.’s charter school movement–as these reflections by members of the D.C. charter community illustrate. His death is a great loss for the District.