Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Attend Summer School, Get Paid?
Some District taxpayers are asking whether the District's controversial Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) is giving cash to underachieving students to go to summer school rather than paying them to work? It appears that the answer is yes, and the message it seems to send is that if you don't do well in school, no worries, you'll still get a D.C. government job. Just like the real world? I hope not.
Last summer, 3,370 of 22,076 youth enrolled in SYEP (15% of the total enrollment) were assigned to the D.C. Public Schools, according to the Mayor's press release. The 2010 press release lacks such detail. But in testimony to the D.C. Council on June 16, 2010, Department of Employment Services (DOES) Director Joseph P. Walsh reported that 8,360 youths were assigned among DCPS, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), and the Department of Energy (DOE) of this summer's 21,000 total enrollment.
An additional 1,316 and 641 youth were assigned to charter schools in 2009 and 2010, respectively. No information appears to be available as to the nature of these "employment" assignments. Predictably, statements by the Mayor and other DC government officials tout the number of placements with private employers and at actual worksites.
Summer school is open to high school students who need three or fewer credits to graduate or to move to the next grade level.
Those whose summer work assignment is the DC Public Schools participate in the "Career Pathways" program.
According to the DC Summer Fun website, "DCPS understands that students might need both to attend summer school and to work. Therefore the “Career Pathways” program was created to allow students to remain on track for promotion and graduation while they grow professionally during the summer by participating in SYEP." Students can enroll both in summer school and SYEP, their attendance in regular and Career Pathways classes is separately recorded, and the students are paid for their attendance in the later.
In a letter to parents of high school students, Chancellor Michelle Rhee explained the program as the summer approached. Rhee notes that Career Pathways is cosponsored by DOES and is part of the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program. It allows students to take up to two courses to earn academic credit, without pay, while also taking at least one paid Career Pathways course for which they do not receive academic credit. Career Pathways is career services guidance. "We hope that this program will prevent students from having to make the difficult choice between attending summer school or taking a summer job," says Rhee.
Perhaps that's just the type of difficult choice DC's youth should have to make. It might teach them that if one does not focus in school, he or she will have difficulty getting a job or may have to work extra hard (nights and/or weekends) to make a living.