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JOBS Outlook 2020: Pivotal Year, Pivotal Issues

By Rev. Stephen E. Tucker

The year 2020 may be remembered as one of the most pivotal years in our nation’s history. It’s an election year of major proportions, with efforts underway to impeach the current president. Attacks continue on Social Security and workers persist in the fight for fair wages. This current state of national affairs has an ever-increasing ability to overshadow many important issues at the local level, like the city’s escalating homicide rate (166 killed in 2019, up slightly from 160 in 2018, according to data released by the Metropolitan Police Department), and the future of charter schools in the District.

In 2019, JOBS Coalition had as its primary objective to bring more attention to the struggles of returning citizens, particularly in their efforts to get documentation needed for the pursuit of employment. We are collaborating with two organizations — the East River Family Strengthening Collaborative and the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Washington’s Welcome Home Reentry Program — to assist in this effort. In addition, the JOBS Coalition’s Pathways newsletter featured an article entitled “Lives Reinvented” that reported on the Congressional Black Caucus’s continued efforts to keep reentry on the front burner.

Now into the new decade, the Coalition is looking forward to addressing the current state of affairs in Wards 7 and 8. Nearly 50 percent of the District’s homicides are committed in Ward 7. And the residents of this ward are struggling with gentrification and housing development, both which threaten to displace longtime residents.

Education is also a continuing issue for the 70,000-plus residents of Ward 7. At a legislative meeting in December 2018, there was a commitment made by numerous members of the D.C. Council to require that a 50/50 allocation of all net revenue from sports wagering be dedicated to the Birth-to-Free For All DC Act, which provides a series of child health care and other support services for families, and the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act implementation to reduce violence in Wards 5, 7 and 8. We, the Coalition, will make every effort to support this measure and its intentions by working with faith- and community-based organizations, including the National Capital Baptist Convention of Washington, DC & Vicinity, New Commandment Baptist Church, and again, the East River Family Strengthening Collaborative — all organizations key to helping craft the legislation.

Furthermore, the Coalition will continue to spotlight the growing concern over violence inside D.C. schools. The problem is not only student-to-student acts of violence, but also increasingly student acts against teachers. Early childhood education must focus on reducing violence by emphasizing cooperative play strategies, effective communication and coping skills, and teaching youth of all ages how to better manage conflict amongst themselves and others.

We will also maintain steadfast support of the triumphs of the D.C. Students Construction Trades Foundation (DCSCTF) and the work of the students enrolled in the Academy of Construction and Design (ACAD) at IDEA Public Charter School. May of 2019 found us celebrating the “Best of Meet the Future” at the annual DCSCTF-sponsored luncheon. And in October, ACAD made a presentation to the National Capital Baptist Convention of Washington, DC & Vicinity, spreading the word across the faith community about its successful programs and outreach efforts to encourage more young students to enroll into the program. While the 2020 election is front and center on the national stage, so is local politics as the D.C. Council readies for its own political race. Understanding the importance of engagement, the Coalition plans to meet with candidates for Council seats, including JOBS Coalition board member Chander Jayaraman, who is running for an At-Large seat.