To reduce unemployment and narrow the gap between rich and poor, the District must help more residents build the basic reading, writing, and numeracy skills required by D.C.’s economy, according to a new report released today by DC Appleseed.
The report, From Basic Skills to Good Jobs: A Strategy for Connecting D.C.’s Adult Learners to Career Pathways, was issued today following the release of Mayor Gray’s proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget. Although Mayor Gray’s budget includes new funding for K-12 education, it is missing a critical opportunity to invest in education for the 60,000 D.C. adults who lack a high school degree.
The DC Appleseed report finds that with an additional $2.5 million, the District could take a critical step forward on a strategy to help more residents build the basic skills required by D.C.’s job market. The report shows that this strategy could at the same time bolster the District’s public school reform effort since children’s success in school is significantly affected by their parents’ education and their family’s economic security.
The report concludes that residents who lack basic skills have a hard time finding family-supporting work in D.C.’s economy. The District is home to one of the most highly skilled labor markets in the nation, and residents who lack a high school diploma have higher rates of unemployment and poverty than their peers with more education.
“Unless the District develops a strategy to help more adults increase their basic skills and connect to career pathways, it risks leaving tens of thousands of D.C. residents out of the city’s economic growth,” said Brooke DeRenzis of DC Appleseed. “Skills disparities contribute to the District’s gap between rich and poor, which is already one of the largest in the nation.”
The report finds that the number of adults in need of basic skills upgrades far exceeds the number being served by publicly-funded programs. It also finds that the District does not make the best use of its limited resources because it spends funds on adult education across multiple agencies without coordinating around a shared strategy or set of outcomes.
The report calls on the District to adopt a citywide initiative to ensure that every adult learner in a basic skills program has access to a career pathway by 2020. Career pathways help adult learners increase their basic skills and successfully transition postsecondary training, education, and work.
The report also calls on the District government to jumpstart this multi-year initiative by investing $2.5 million in FY 2015 on the following activities:
- A cross-agency task force to develop and implement a strategic plan for connecting basic skills programs to career pathways
- An “innovation fund” to pilot, evaluate, and scale evidence-based career pathway approaches
- Increased support for adult learners who may have learning disabilities
“Building a system that truly provides every adult learner with the opportunity to access to a career pathway is a multi-year effort,” said DeRenzis. “If the District adopts the investments DC Appleseed proposes for FY 2015, it can make real progress toward achieving that goal by 2020.”