Much of the economic inequality in our city today results from the educational inequity that has plagued our city for decades. The Education Subcommittee consisted of experts, advocates, and parents from across the educational landscape of the District of Columbia (“the District”). They identified the areas most in need of additional attention and reform. The Subcommittee recommended that I focus on filling in the gaps in the District’s education system to better meet the needs of all District students, reduce the achievement gap, and provide meaningful opportunities for education from infancy through adulthood. Specifically, the Subcommittee focused its recommendations on early childhood education, special education and mental health services, as well as adult and family education.
Early Childhood Care and Education
The academic divides in our city impact even our youngest residents. We know that there are profound achievement gaps that put many of our less privileged children at a disadvantage, even before their first day of school. The only way to address these achievement gaps is to ensure that every child has equal access to high-quality, affordable early childhood care and education. Therefore, I plan to push for the expansion and improvement of early childhood care and education programs. I intend to fight to:
- Expand the number of high-quality child development centers in the District to meet the demand from families;
- Increase the subsidies the District provides to child development centers to ensure that child development providers can afford to offer high-quality services and a salary that compensates experienced workers adequately; and
- Review the regulatory barriers that limit the number of child development centers.
Special Education and Wrap-Around Services
Not all children face the same challenges, but all children deserve the same opportunity to succeed. Schools that tailor their instruction to meet the special needs of individual students and provide quality wrap-around services give children that opportunity. The Education Subcommittee recommended that I work to improve special education services and the District’s compliance with special education laws. To meet these goals, I intend to:
- Implement and fund the Enhanced Special Education Services Act of 2014 to better identify and serve young children with developmental delays and make other critical enhancements to special education services;
- Encourage meaningful collaboration between schools and other District agencies to provide special education services;
- Ensure that the District is effectively utilizing the education data systems it has invested millions of dollars in to ensure our students are receiving and benefitting from high quality services; and
- Expand the availability and quality of mental health services for students in public and public charter schools suffering from trauma.
Adult and Family Education
The need for education does not stop after adolescence. Many adults also benefit from programs that help improve literacy and develop the skills necessary to gain employment or advance their careers. The Education Subcommittee identified barriers to adult and family education. I intend to break down these barriers by:
- Expanding multi-generational education programs that combine literacy and skill-development for parents with their children’s education;
- Ensuring that parents who participate in educational programs have access to childcare;
- Providing transportation subsidies to adults enrolled in education or job-training programs; and
- Ensuring that public school buildings are available for adult education before and after normal school hours, especially in neighborhoods with high need for such services.