Why I'm Running

As I spent the summer knocking doors around Ward 6, I’ve been asked a lot why I’m running for office. It’s a fair question, with a simple answer: I’m running because all Ward 6 children and all Ward 6 schools deserve a State Board of Education representative who knows DC education in and out of the classroom and who will hold high expectations for all schools and students.

I’m an educator first. I am running for office to serve students and to put my own classroom teaching and education policy implementation experience to bear on statewide education policy-making. I’m also a policy wonk and that’s what the DC SBOE is about--complex, sometimes dull, and incredibly important policy research, discussion & debate. It’s what I’ve done for the last 10 years of my career.

Our SBOE representative must advocate for Ward 6 schools and families, and when elected, I will be a strong voice for our local communities. But that alone is not enough. The State Board enacts policy that affects ALL DC students and a representative must see themself as an advocate for EVERY student, school, and family. The State Board is fundamentally about policy and I’ve got experience from the classroom to my work at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education - even a PhD in education policy. The SBOE has a tremendous opportunity to be proactive about advocating for policy that can benefit all students in DC’s publicly funded schools. Board members have the opportunity to work together constructively with OSSE and the Deputy Mayor for Education while still demanding accountability and results. The Board must seize this opportunity to advance education for our students.

If elected, I will begin and end all policy conversations with the question teachers ask themselves each day: “How does what we are about to do improve student learning?” We must direct all our work District-wide to close opportunity and achievement gaps faster for our students. While there are many ways we might do this, there are a few I plan to champion if elected.

I will work to ensure that the District provides equal educational resources and equal opportunities to succeed for all children. This could mean significantly increasing the amount of funding distributed to schools serving high percentages of at-risk students or giving weighted preference in the MySchool DC lottery to students designated “at-risk.”

I will support the push for excellence in all DC schools and the creation of new choices of schools and programs that meet the needs of District children. This includes ensuring access to a full, rich curriculum for all students.We must not narrow the education we provide to any of our students, especially in the elementary and middle grades. Science, social studies, music, art and world languages are all essential parts of a well-rounded education and should be accessible to all students in DC. We must also push schools to go beyond mere compliance for students with disabilities and ensure that they can access the full scope of the school curriculum and extracurricular activities. District students and families deserve real choices in the kinds of schools and programs that meet their needs and interests. We must ask students and families what kinds of new programs they want and work to expand access to popular programs with long waiting lists.

I’m looking forward to engaging folks all throughout Ward 6 in the weeks to come, and to learning more about what you want to see your State Board of Education doing. My reason for running has always been, and always will be, to advocate for excellence in ALL schools for ALL of our students. I’m eager to dive in on the complex policy issues that we must tackle to achieve that excellence. And I will still be there to greet you and your child on the first day of school.

Jessica Sutter