Local: Education

Marion Barry compares charter schools to Asian restaurants in Ward 8

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Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry compared charter schools to restaurants he recently criticized as Asian-owned "dirty shops" at a hearing on Tuesday morning.

Barry expressed frustration that residents living close to charter schools can't always attend them, because charter schools provide admission through citywide lotteries, and parents "have no choice of getting their kid out of a low-performing [D.C. Public Schools] school."

"I'm running into the same situation with these restaurants in Ward 8," Barry told Scott Pearson, executive director of the charter school board, and other board members. "Somebody said to me the other day, 'Well, if they don't treat you well there, why should I shop there?' The problem is, in some of our neighborhoods — in my neighborhood — there's no other place at 9 o'clock at night or 4 o'clock in the afternoon, except those carryouts."

Barry continued: "So, we're going to make sure that they're clean, they're decent places to come in to, they're conducive to eat [at], but also that the owners are contributing to this community. They're not going to come into the Ward 8 community and just take all our money."

He qualified that "regardless of what race you are — black, Hispanic, Asian, young, old, it doesn't matter‚ that's the attitude in Ward 8, and we're going to get respect if we spent our money there, so that's about it."

Barry was in a council hearing Tuesday afternoon and could not be immediately reached for comment. 

Earlier this month, Barry celebrated after his victory in the Ward 8 Democratic primary by telling supporters, "We've got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops. They ought to go."

Barry initially defended his remarks, posting photos of restaurants serving Asian food in his ward, and blaming their Plexiglass storefronts for creating distance between the owners and the community.

He later apologized, but maintained that "there are a number of the Asian-owned, neighborhood stores and carry-outs in Ward 8 that only sell highly caloric food and that, unlike some other Asian businessmen in Ward 8, don't reach out to neighborhood groups, make financial contributions to the neighborhood, or help young people in the neighborhood improve their quality of life."

On Monday, Barry made remarks about nurses from the Philippines who work at District hospitals, saying he would rather District-reared residents take the city's nursing and teaching jobs.

"In fact, it's so bad, that if you go to the hospital now, you find a number of immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines," Barry said. "And no offense, but let's grow our own teachers, let's grow our own nurses — and so that we don't have to be scrounging around in our community clinics and other kinds of places — having to hire people from somewhere else."

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