School to Workforce Pipeline

Violent crime in the District has risen drastically year after year for the past five years and tragically, many of those crimes are committed by young people. Crime and violence like this occur when young people feel like they have nothing to lose by being arrested or going to prison. Young people in our city have an unemployment rate of 17%, seven percentage points higher than the national average. The lack of hope our young people have is dangerous and we are seeing the consequences. We owe more to our young people than what we are giving them. 

To address violence in our city, we need a renewed sense of urgency around public education. If we set ambitious goals and refuse to accept the status quo, we can prepare every single student in our city for college or a good-paying career and create a robust pipeline of prepared and reliable employees for our businesses. When young people see a productive and healthy future within reach, they won’t want to risk that potential by engaging in violent crime. We must understand that as we face the stubborn challenges of crime and poverty, there is no path to progress without improving education. We must give our kids a fighting chance.

We need to put all of our young people on a path to a good-paying career or a college education. The path must be clear and appear within reach. Right now, our public schools are failing to meet the needs of too many students. Education cannot be one-size fits. We must build a system that allows every student to explore their talents and meet their potential. Young people who don’t plan to go to college are either dropping out of high school or graduating without the tools to start a stable career. And far too many young people are not succeeding in schools because of instability at home. A traditional education model doesn’t work for every young person, so we have to create a public education system that serves the needs of every student. That is why I am proposing two transformative alternative education models that will prepare DC students for high-paying jobs so they know they have everything to lose by becoming involved with crime. 

Vocational Education for Every Student

As Mayor, I will oversee the most dramatic expansion of vocational education in our city’s history. Under Mayor Bowser’s administration, vocational education has been an afterthought. Today, students are constrained by the vocational options that their school offers and many so-called vocational programs are not preparing students for a good-paying job right out of high school. 

Over time, the District has moved away from preparing students for traditional skilled trades. These jobs are stable, reliable and well-paying. We need to expand access to traditional trades where, especially with incoming infrastructure money from the federal government, massive opportunities are on the horizon. In addition, many 21st century jobs in the fastest growing industries, like the IT industry, do not require a college degree and can be pursued through vocational studies in the public school system. We must prepare students for these growing industries and make the investment to connect our youth to the careers of our future—not only in textbooks, but through experiential, hands-on learning. 

Under my administration, every single student who wants to will have the opportunity to leave high school fully prepared to begin a career in a traditional or emerging trade. As Mayor, I will work to keep kids on productive paths by implementing a 21st Century Vocational Education Program for DC focused on preparing students for gainful employment right out of high school. This will mean expanding classroom and internship opportunities and building relationships with businesses to create pipelines from our high schools. A one-size fits all approach will not work here, so I will appoint a team of teachers, parents, students, union leaders, business leaders, and other experts to determine what we need to do to make our vocational education system work. I will give this team 120 days to deliver recommendations that we will implement as an early priority of my administration. 

Public Boarding Schools 

Some students need a 24-hour academic and support environment. Many of the young people who are disconnecting from school could succeed academically but for environmental issues like housing instability, food insecurity, violence and crime in their neighborhoods, or parents who are unable to assist with homework or social-emotional needs. These are students who have as much potential as any other young person, but often do not reach their potential because of adversities outside of the traditional school day. We are going to remove those factors and give more students a clear road to academic and career success.

DC is home to the nation’s first college preparatory public boarding school, the SEED school. For almost 25 years, the SEED school has prepared children academically and socially for college and careers and has since been replicated in several locations across the country. Public boarding schools in DC have demonstrated year after year that they can graduate successful students who succeed at acclaimed universities and other undertakings.

As mayor, I will explore creating public boarding schools for elementary, junior-high, and high school students. The schools will ensure that students have rigorous classes, nutritious meals, development programs, a good night’s sleep, and an environment where they can focus on their academic and personal growth. I will appoint a team of parents, teachers, school administrators, school psychologists, sociologists, and other experts to develop and provide me with a plan to implement the public boarding school concept at the elementary, junior-high, and high schools levels. I will give this team 120 days to develop the blueprint. Thereafter, I will immediately take steps to create a 5-year pilot program to demonstrate the worthiness and effectiveness of providing a public boarding school option to elementary, junior-high and high school students. We will measure student growth and achievement over that time.

Together, these two plans will give young people the ultimate chance for success by putting viable career and academic opportunities within their reach. These bold ideas will create a pipeline of skilled and reliable students and employees and will significantly reduce violence and crime.