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Mayor outlines youth initiatives for Woodson students

(Published April 5, 1999)


Special to The Common Denominator

Mayor Anthony Williams recently announced broad spending increases for public schools and after-school programs, but at least one critic of his proposed plan is concerned how some of the money will be spent.

"We’re looking for help from businesses and religious groups," said Williams, who recently joined four present and former historically black college presidents at H.D. Woodson High School in Northeast Washington to promote higher education. "This is a tremendous advantage to kids in the District. We’re providing financial aid so kids can have money."

Williams’ proposed fiscal 2000 budget calls for numerous spending increases, including a $33 million taxpayer-funded Children and Youth Investment Fund (CYIF), which would help finance a "continuum" of after-school and out-of-school programs for infant-age children to young adults.

The money would help pay for child welfare, family support and substance abuse services, youth development and programs focusing on at-risk teenagers.

Serving as chairman, the mayor would manage the fund through the Children and Youth Investment Partnership Policy Council, a governance board that would be comprised of international, federal, religious and neighborhood members, including representatives from the World Bank and D.C. Superior Court.

In addition to the new fund, the mayor’s 2000 budget proposes other youth-related measures:

• An 8 percent increase over the District’s fiscal 1999 public school operating budget.

• Extra money for child and foster care.

• A 5 percent increase for all school-based personnel.

• A $1 million incentive package for prospective D.C. teachers and another $1 million for their professional development.

The mayor’s budget still has to pass through an extensive review and approval process that involves the city council, the financial control board and Congress.

According to one council member who ran against Williams in the 1999 mayoral election, some of the spending increases may be unjustified.

"I think there are a lot of gray areas," said Republican at-large Councilwoman Carol Schwartz, referring to the $33 million CYIF. Besides, several council committees have already begun the collaborative process, said Schwartz.

"You don’t need $33 million to get employees to collaborate with each other. What is the benchmark? The crime rate? Drug use? If you are going to spend that kind of money, you’ve got to articulate some goals to direct what you are doing. The initiative in itself is not a bad one. I just don’t think we can spend that kind of money responsibly," Schwartz said.

A report by the mayor’s office cites a birth rate twice the national average and poor reading and math skills as evidence that comprehensive and organized programs like the CYIF are needed to help students "and reduce problem behaviors including delinquency, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy."

Following the mayor’s speech at Woodson, Florida A&M University president Frederick Humphries and Xavier University president Norman Francis offered scholarships to well over 100 Academy of Finance and Business students who attended the meeting in the H.D. Woodson library.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator