Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Here we go again - making youth family wage earners

I was expecting a robust turnout of advocates, young people, and providers to ask questions and demand answers at the June 16 roundtable on the DOES Summer Youth Employment Program.   None of that happened; there were only three public witnesses addressing the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development (At-large CM Michael Brown, chair).

The many issues raised during oversight hearings remain.   These include assuring quality summer experiences, making sure the young people are ready for the work world, and diverting young people to more education rather than work where appropriate.   None of this came up.

Perhaps most startling of all was the continued belief of Joe Walsh, DOES director that somehow summer youth employment is about increasing household income.   Is it true that families are poor and SYEP income is essential?   Yes.   But the fact is that the District should not be using summer youth employment to make families less poor.   The city should tackle family poverty in a meaningful way that does not force young people to be family wage earners.

The committee chair missed an opportunity to raise this with Walsh.   CM Michael Brown should be encouraged by advocates, young people, parents, and others, to make this a priority for his committee.   The CM has demonstrated he is concerned about poverty; now he needs to translate the concern into action.

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