Letter to the Chairman, Senate Committee on the District of Columbia, on the Need for an Elected School Board in Washington.
Yesterday the House of Representatives acted to bring democracy closer to the citizens of the District of Columbia by making them responsible for the election of their own school board.
By an overwhelming vote of 324 to 3, the House carried forward the much needed modernization of the District's educational system which I recommended to the Congress on August 16, 1967.
The speed and virtual unanimity of the House action underscores both the urgency of replacing the present archaic selection system and the wide acceptance of the legislation drawn to meet this need. The bill passed by the House of Representatives incorporates each of the provisions recommended as central to reform in my August 16 message. It would:
--create an 11-member school board; eight to be selected by school electoral ward, and three at large.
--set the following requirements for board membership:
• Eligibility to vote,
• District residence for at least three years,
• Residence in the school electoral ward for at least one year.
--Provide for staggered four-year terms of office.
The House-passed bill calls for election of the first School Board on April 16, 1968. This sets a tight time schedule for completion of the many tasks necessary to assure an orderly election. The city must be divided into school electoral wards. The Board of Elections must conduct a new registration for all citizens.
Candidates must be identified and nominating petitions filed 56 days in advance of the election. Campaigns must be mounted not only in each ward, but city-wide for those seeking the three at-large seats.
As you can see, prompt action is essential if the District of Columbia is to have the time it needs to prepare for the election of its school officials next April. I hope your Committee will act as soon as possible to open the way for early passage by the Senate.
Together, the Congress and the President have brought Twentieth Century Government to the District of Columbia. The recent reorganization unburdened it of outmoded municipal machinery.
This bill would carry forward the momentum of reform by producing a modern, strong system of educational leadership for the Nation's Capital and for the 150,000 school children who live here.
The Administration stands ready to assist your Committee in every appropriate way. This is the time for action--when new government is bringing new promise to the Nation's Capital City.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON
[Honorable Alan Bible, Chairman, Committee on the District of Columbia, United States Senate, Washington, D.C.]
Note: For the President's letter of August 16, 1967, to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House recommending this legislation, see Item 350.
The Senate did not complete action on the bill during the first session of the 90th Congress.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the Chairman, Senate Committee on the District of Columbia, on the Need for an Elected School Board in Washington. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/237623