At a debate among mayoral candidates in Georgetown on Thursday, Andy Shallal said DC schools need more social services to deal with the effects of poverty, and Tommy Wells vowed to put high-quality elementary schools within walking distance of every family.

The debate, sponsored by the Current Newspapers, featured 6 of the declared candidates, including Shallal and Wells, but incumbent Mayor Vince Gray was absent.

The video above shows Shallal’s response to a question from moderator Davis Kennedy, publisher of the Current papers. Kennedy’s question, which is hard to hear on the video, was essentially whether Shallal would retain DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson, given recent signs of progress in the school system.

Shallal took issue with that premise, saying that the achievement gap between white and black students “has gotten wider since this so-called education reform has actually taken place.” He also took a swipe at Henderson for her recently reported remarks that, as Shallal put it, “we cannot do middle schools.”

Shallal called for a moratorium on closing neighborhood schools and said that schools must be able to offer “wraparound services” to counteract the effects of poverty on students.

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells also addressed education, touting the success of elementary schools in his ward. He said that all of them have waiting lists and that they are the most economically integrated schools in the District. As mayor, he said, he would extend that success to all other wards as well.

Wells didn’t address the question of middle school quality. Parents, including some in Ward 6, have recently been complaining that there are few good options for their children after elementary school.

Martin Moulton is an education advocate who lives in the Shaw neighborhood. He is originally from California where he attended public, private and parochial schools. He works in the tech sector. A life long cyclist/non-driver, he serves on the board of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. Moulton has served as a consultant to KIPP DC in its community outreach.

Natalie Wexler is a DC education journalist and blogger. She chairs the board of The Writing Revolution and serves on the Urban Teachers DC Regional Leadership Council, and she has been a volunteer reading and writing tutor in high-poverty DC Public Schools.