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The Players

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Julius W. Becton Jr.

Position: Chief executive officer, District of Columbia public schools.
Age: 70
Hometown: Bryn Mawr, Pa.
Education: Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas, B.S. in mathematics, 1960; University of Maryland, M.A. in economics, 1967; graduate of several U.S. Army colleges.
Military: Rose to rank of lieutenant general after entering as a private in 1944; veteran of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars; served in many domestic and international posts before retiring with nearly 40 years of service.
Other Career Posts: Director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance; director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; president of Prairie View A&M University.
Personal: Married, with five grown children, 10 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

The Rest of the Cast

The United States Congress: It's a bit player in most public school districts, but not so in the nation's capital. With constitutional authority over this federal enclave, it's at the top of the food chain in the city government, with final say over the school budget.

The District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority: Better known as "the control board,'' this five-member panel--created by Congress and appointed by the president--has broad powers over the city's municipal government and schools. Now that it has elbowed aside the elected school board, it's calling the shots.

The District of Columbia Emergency Transitional Education Board of Trustees: This newly created nine-member panel is a creature of the control board, charged with overseeing the day-to-day operations of the school system. It is set to expire in June 2000 unless the control board prolongs its life.

The City Council and Mayor Marion S. Barry: Under the law that created the control board in 1995, these municipal officials can veto line items in the school budget before it is submitted to the control board. But the control board can and does overrule them when it sees fit.

The District of Columbia Board of Education: This elected 11-member body was reduced to advisory status by the control board. Under the new governing structure, it can review and make recommendations on everything from contracts to the curriculum, but has no binding authority. It is suing the control board in hopes of wresting back its power.

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