In Education, Washington, DC, What's At Stake

Real policy change involves elected officials at all levels of local government. DC is not like any other city, because we are also, in many ways, a state (without federal representation, though our population is larger than Vermont’s or Wyoming’s). Our Mayor has many of the powers of a Governor, and the DC Council also functions as a state legislature. Together they are in charge of things as small as potholes and as large as the budget, healthcare policy, employment law, etc.

There are 13 DC Councilmembers: one for each of the eight Wards, four At-Large Members who represent the entire District, and an At-Large Chair. Two of the At-Large positions must be filled by people who are not the majority party on the Council (almost always the Democrats).

DC also has a neighborhood-level system of government called the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs). Non-partisan, elected commissioners can recommend neighborhood improvements and provide input on issues of concern to the Council. There are 40 ANCs across the city, varying in size from 2 to 12 commissioners. Each commissioner represents about 2,000 residents, and there are 296 commissioners total.

The State Board of Education oversees specific areas of DC’s public schools. It has nine members, one for each Ward and one At-Large Member. There’s a shift underway in our education system, with the potential for more power in the hands of the elected State Board and less in the hands of the Mayor.

DC’s Attorney General has more limited authority than some state attorneys general, but still oversees juvenile justice, files federal lawsuits on behalf of the District, and can represent the public interest in all legal proceedings.

DC has one Delegate to the House of Representatives, who serves on committees, but cannot vote on legislation in committee or on the floor of the House. We have one Shadow Representative and two Shadow Senators who advocate for statehood but who are not seated in Congress and who are not paid for their positions.

To find your Ward and ANC, visit

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