DFER Partner ERNA DC Testifies on B25-0353, B25-0744, and B25-0745


June 17, 2024

Jessica Giles
Executive Director – DC
Education Reform Now Advocacy

Committee on Executive Administration and Labor Hearing on:

  • B25-0353- Middle School Career Exploration Pilot Amendment
  • B25-0744- Pay Our Youth a Fair Summer Wage Amendment Act of 2024
  • B25-0745- Youth Work Permit and Employment Protection Act of 2024

Chairperson Bonds, members, and staff of the Committee on Executive Administration & Labor,

My name is Jessica Giles. I am a ward seven resident and the Executive Director of the DC Chapter of Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERNA), a non-partisan, non-profit organization fighting for a just and equitable public education system for all DC students. I am pleased to submit this statement for the record for the Committee’s May 30, 2024, hearing on B25-0353, B25-0744, and B25-0745.

We believe DC should support efforts to increase the number of students who finish high school and complete college.[1] Just 18 out of 100 ninth-grade students earn a degree six years after graduating high school.[2] Most jobs in DC require postsecondary training, which limits DC natives’ job prospects.[3] Ultimately, native Washingtonians’ average income doesn’t reach a living wage level.[4] While more long-term data on students is needed to understand the impact of students’ education and training on their careers, it is clear that DC must do more to ensure students are equipped to thrive in life.

B25-0353 – Middle School Career Exploration Pilot Amendment

ERNA DC supports B25-0353, which enables the Department of Employee Services (DOES) to offer programs for students ages 9-13 to help them learn about careers before they are eligible to participate in the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) and provide them a safe summer experience. Career exploration during the middle grades can help students begin planning for their future at a time when they are at risk of disengaging from school.[5] Further, researchers have found student motivation and behavior in middle grades to be predictive of students’ eventual readiness for postsecondary education.[6] In particular, we support the bill’s approach of piloting programming, surveying participants about their experiences, and reporting findings to the DC Council. We suggest the DC Council consider requiring DOES to share individual participant data with students’ local educational agencies (LEAs). In addition, we suggest the DC Council consider ways to structure greater collaboration among agencies such as DOES, Workforce Investment Council DC, Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Deputy Mayor for Education, LEAs, and others to build alignment and coherence among college and career programs from preK-12 to career.

B25-0744 – Pay Our Youth a Fair Summer Wage Amendment Act of 2024

While we support the intent of B25-0744, we have strong concerns about the program overall. The DC Council should strengthen[7] MBSYEP, which is the nation’s largest summer youth program per person[8],  to provide more meaningful career opportunities and job skills for students and ensure the program is beneficial for more employers.[9] Specifically, we recommend the following changes::

  • Require an external evaluation of MBSYEP outcomes. Since program participants are overwhelmingly Black and the majority hail from wards 7 and 8, ensuring that the program is high-quality and provides pathways to future employment is paramount. As the DC Fiscal Policy Institute has outlined, more data is needed to understand the efficacy of MBSYEP.[10] An external evaluation has not been completed since 2020 when COVID drastically affected MBSYEP delivery.[11] Findings from an external assessment should inform ongoing program design and refinements.
  • Require DOES to increase the number of jobs aligned to in-demand industries/build in-demand skills. In the FY23 performance oversight hearing response, DOES shared that 3,555 jobs of the 13,520 in which students began working were in the DC government.[12] While it is commendable that students further the mission of city government and experience that sector, DOES should be held accountable for its liaising with industries that lead to high-wage, in-demand careers for students. When accessed on June 13, 2024, the MBSYEP site does not include content overviewing what employers gain from participating in the program.[13] Additionally, MBSYEP could require employers to note a few key skills participants will learn or utilize in the program; this would help students identify suitable matches and help them continue to build awareness of their strengths in an increasingly skills-based economy.
  • Require MBSYEP to ensure equitable access (e.g., access for English learners. Currently, application materials are offered in English and Spanish. English learners who speak other native languages may be excluded from the program. Virginia recently passed legislation convening a work group to make recommendations on reducing barriers to paid work-based learning programs for English learners; DC should follow suit in ensuring all students may participate.[14]
  • Provide incentives for employers in high-demand industries. In addition to paying MBSYEP student wages, the city could offer subsidies or tax credits to employers in high-demand industries to encourage them to participate in MBSYEP. At least 28 states – but not DC – provide financial incentives for work-based learning.[15] In the last year, more states expanded incentives for offering work-based learning: Arkansas and Florida offered reimbursements to employers for workers’ compensation, and Florida and North Dakota created tax credits for employers hiring apprentices and pre-apprentices.[16] Beyond targeting high-demand industries, incentives could be further targeted to small-, minority-, and local-owned businesses. Such incentives would make it easier for these smaller operations to host MBSYEP students.
  • Expand “Earn & Learn” programs. MBSYEP has partnered with Trinity Washington to offer program wages and enrollment in a credit-earning course to prepare students for college. MBSYEP should explore expanding such partnerships, including opportunities to partner with other higher education institutions to offer credit for other work placements.  

B25-0745 – Youth Work Permit and Employment Protection Act of 2024

We support B25-0745. The common sense language protects youth and makes the process for employers to hire youth more straightforward. We also recommend that the DC Council charge DOES to inform employers of the shifts to encourage youth employment. We suggest that DOES liaise with employers with opportunities in high-demand fields to build pathways for youth to eventual careers.

Thank you for holding this hearing. You may contact me at jessica@ernadvocacy.org with any questions.

[1] Education Reform Now DC. November 2023. D.C.’s Quiet Crisis in College Access & Completion

[2] D.C. Policy Center. March 8, 2024. State of D.C. Schools, 2022-23: Challenges to pandemic recovery in a new normal. Source: https://www.dcpolicycenter.org/publications/state-of-dc-schools-2022-23/

[3] D.C. Policy Center. June 30, 2020. Transition to college or career for the District’s high school students. Source: https://www.dcpolicycenter.org/publications/student-transition-college-career/

[4] Ibid.

[5] Association for Career and Technical Education. February 2018. “Career Exploration in Middle School: Setting Students on the Path to Success.” Source: www.acteonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/ACTE_CC_Paper_FINAL.pdf

[6] National Council on Measurement in Education. 2015. “Performance, Perseverance, and the Full Picture of College Readiness” Source: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1065364

[7] DC Office of the Auditor. March 21, 2017. Internal Control Weaknesses Found in Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program Source: https://s26552.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/MBSYEP.Internal.Controls.Final_.Report.3.21.17.pdf

[8] https://mayor.dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-highlights-pathways-health-careers-during-mayor-marion-s-barry-summer-youth

[9] Department of Employment Services. 2024 Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program 2024. Source: https://does.dc.gov/service/mayor-marion-s-barry-summer-youth-employment-program

[10] DC Fiscal Policy Institute. Lawmakers Should Require Third Party Evaluation of Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program. February 21, 2024. Source: https://edreformnow.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/ERN-DC_QuietCrisisPostSecondaryReport_NOV2023.pdf

[11] https://does.dc.gov/service/mayor-marion-s-barry-summer-youth-employment-program

[12] https://dccouncil.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/DOESPOHATT.pdf

[13] https://summerjobs.dc.gov/page/employers

[14] https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?231+sum+SB1430

[15] https://www.ecs.org/50-state-comparison-work-based-learning/

[16] https://www.americanprogress.org/article/k-12-work-based-learning-opportunities-a-50-state-scan-of-2023-legislative-action/