Education Week Initiatives Aim for High Attainment

In a conclusion of Washington, D.C.’s Education Week, the District announced a scholarship partnership that will provide valedictorians and salutatorians from public and public charter schools full scholarships to the University of the District of Columbia. The announcement also included a plan to create more space for current charter schools, which would otherwise be relocated.

Mayor Muriel Bowser, Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles and University of the District of Columbia President Ronald Mason, Jr. jointly initiated the scholarships, called the District of Columbia University Partnership, which will allow students to receive four full years of schooling free of tuition.

Bowser stressed the initiative’s importance in creating a robust middle class through this partnership with D.C.’s only public university at a press conference Feb. 5.

“We are cementing a pathway to the middle class for our students with this innovative program at the University of the District of Columbia,” Bowser said. “I am proud to continue to work with UDC as we make critical investments in District youth.”

D.C. Public Schools Press Secretary Michelle Lerner declined to comment on the initiative.

Bowser and Niles also introduced a plan to solicit two excess DCPS school buildings, which aims to create more long-term space for public charter schools. The plan will allow charter schools to make needed capital improvements and provide sustained programming to students and families.

The new solicitation will also allow charter schools to sign multiyear leases for the buildings where Keene Elementary School in Ward 5 and P.R. Harris in Ward 8 are currently located.

D.C. Public Charter School Board Executive Director Scott Pearson stressed that the initiative will allow the community to experience educational continuity in a press release published Feb. 5.

“Today, through Mayor Bowser’s leadership, three public charter schools will be able to stay in the buildings in which they’re currently located,” Pearson said. “This is good for our students, parents and community because our schools can focus on teaching instead of looking for new space.”

 

Pearson also expressed the board’s support for the new solicitation of the two charter schools, citing it as essential for the community’s health as whole at the Feb. 5 press conference.

“Letting public charter schools occupy unused buildings is a good thing,” Pearson said. “It removes a neighborhood blight, it saves the city maintenance money and generates lease revenue for the city. Most importantly, it will ensure more families have access to choose the school that is the right fit for their child.”

Ale Parra (SFS ’19), a tutor and coordinator for the D.C. Schools Project, a program that provides English tutoring services to the District’s low-income or immigrant communities, emphasized that the new scholarship program could motivate students to aim higher.

“A lot of them are in the immigrant communities and they’re struggling to learn English and be on the same level as everyone else, just because of the language barrier,” Parra said. “A lot of the time something like being valedictorian can be a little ways off, like in their younger years, but I feel that since we’re starting to work with them now, they learn about the scholarship later on in high school. I think it could work as an incentive for them to work harder and it would open doors for them.”

 

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