By improving its public schools, expanding affordable housing, and revitalizing its neighborhoods, the District of Columbia has an opportunity to sustain its growth and become a more family-friendly city. It can retain and attract more families with children and increase the share of families that send their children to public schools. It can reverse the decline in public school enrollment and potentially attract as many as 20,000 additional students to public schools by 2015.
For this to happen, the city must strategically link its education policy and investments with development of affordable housing and neighborhoods to better serve the families already living here, attract new families with children to city neighborhoods, and encourage young couples with preschool-age children to stay. Today, serious challenges stand in the way.
Strong ties between neighborhood schools and their communities can benefit both children and neighborhoods. But in DC, disparities in school quality combine with housing patterns to limit both diversity and equity. Every neighborhood should have quality schools and familyfriendly housing options affordable for a range of income levels. The city should make a major effort to improve school quality where the child population is already high or growing and expand affordable, family-friendly housing in all the city’s neighborhoods. More specifically, policies should:
- Target increased educational and out-of-school time investment to neighborhoods of greatest need: where lots of families already live and do not have high-quality school options.
- Move quickly to preserve and expand affordable housing in neighborhoods that are currently undergoing gentrifi cation as well as in historically high-priced neighborhoods that are already served by quality schools; and promote a welcoming environment for racial, ethnic, and economic diversity in all schools.
Educational options can give families access to academic programs and school settings that best meet their children’s needs. But in DC, many families do not have access to high-quality schools, and the relationships among students, families, and their public schools are weak in all but the most affluent neighborhoods. The city should have a public education system where families and students can make good school decisions and then build strong, lasting relationships with schools so that schools meet families’ and students’ needs. More specifically, policies should:
- Ensure that the public education system supports parents and students in using options to their advantage.
- Provide support for families and students to establish long-term commitments with schools and for schools to maintain a long-term presence in their communities.