Gentrification and Schools

I’ve been in the DC area since the mid 1990s. I remember when a friend described sending your child to DC Public Schools (DCPS) as a form of child abuse. So I really don’t think current residents have an appreciation of DCPS improvements and the options that DC Public Charter Schools (DCPCS) provide.

210 P St NW Open House
View of a charter school and a public school from a new development.

So I found an announcement for a talk about “building healthy, respectful, and equitable communities in gentrifying schools” interesting. Interesting as in curious, not interesting as in actually showing up. The event has a Facebook page if the topic is of interest to you.

Despite DC’s demographic change in the last few decades where the African American population is no longer above 50%, Blacks remain a huge majority in DCPS schools. The percent of AfAm students dropped only from 71% in the 2011-2012 year to 62% in 2016-2017. Still a majority. The Latino and white student population rose from 15% & 10% in 2011-12 to 20% and 14% in 2016-17.  And considering 75% of students participate in the DC school lottery, and that has many students commuting across the city (and some from Maryland… bastards) to goal of “building healthy, respectful, and equitable communities in gentrifying schools” curious.

Now I’m not saying anything against integrating schools. Integration is good. I’ve known some adult white DC natives whose parents sent them, purposefully to their neighborhood DC school at some point in their childhood, and they turned into amazing adults with professional jobs. And I’ve heard from DC Charter school parents about trying to make school events more inclusive, a good thing. I can’t say how those efforts worked out because I didn’t have kids nor married at the time, and thus didn’t really care.

If all things remain constant our little man could go to the neighborhood school Seaton (but I’m aiming for Mundo Verde). He can join the 1% multi-racial demographic. Maybe when we get closer to Kindergarten, I’ll find events like this more interesting.

Baby adoption

Spouse and newly adopted son
The Help and Babyman

As some of our friends and neighbors know, my spouse (the Help) we are in the adoption process. Babyman (formerly the Helpless) has been in our home for 6 months and just recently got released from ‘legal risk’. I suspect Mayor Muriel Bowser’s newly adopted child may be under legal risk, so besides her usual privacy, she’s probably not at liberty to say much.

I was pleasantly surprised to read that our mayor has adopted an infant. So congrats to Mayor Bowser on joining the process and good luck. She’ll need it. She’ll also need a strong support network and some live in help. The Help and I act like a tag team in the care of Babyman. In those early days before Babyman was sleeping through the night, even that had me working at half power running on a few hours of sleep. She might be able to deal with a few nights of no sleep but after about a week of almost no sleep because the screaming bottle feeding poop machine, something horrid happens to your brain. When that happens, you really need your support team. For us that was our relatives, neighbors, church members, co-workers, and any person who offered to babysit.

Mayor Bowser get used to being an old mommy. Forgive people who mistake you for your child’s grandma. I do and it’s not worth my time getting upset.  I’m in my late 40s and my spouse will be 50 before Babyman turns 1. I’d like to think patience comes with age and we’re calmer than younger parents. We’ve been told Babyman is a very calm easygoing baby. I’m not sure that is him or us, but for now, I’ll take the credit.

We’re not done with the process. We’ve got to go to court and appear before a judge in some random area of Maryland. I guess Mayor Bowser will have to deal with legal risk, then once both the birthparent’s parental rights are severed, and the adoption agency/lawyer gets the paperwork in order she too will go before a judge who make her a full fledged mommy.

Welcome to the club Mayor Bowser, as a parent you will see the city in a whole new light.

Babies, babies and more babies

Baby in portable bassinet
Baby in portable bassinet

So we found out two more couples in our general area (two block radius) are pregnant. This is in addition to a colleague of the Help who lives nearby, who recently had a boy. So add those pre-people to the little people who currently occupy our street and we’ll have ourselves an awesome Halloween in a year or so. At one point we had a nice number of toddlers and little kids (5) on our street and it made for fun Halloweens, because they would bring some of their pre-K school friends and have a mass of cuteness go from house to house and it is so fun when you know the kids.

Many years ago, the same thing was breaking out in our two block radius where I was hearing so many wives were getting pregnant, I joked that there must have been something in the water. I might (my memory is fuzzy) have told this to a fellow who was living with his girlfriend, and he laughed nervously. They later married and had a couple kids. So once again, there may be something in the water.

That batch of kids, and their parents, eventually moved away. At the time charter schools were not as valued by the city government and citizens as they are today. The voices saying how charters were so bad were the loudest. Now charters are a part of the system and there are more of them. When my neighbors moved, some of them moved because they did not get into the school of their choice, and at the time, there were not a lot of choices. Some of them moved to be in the boundary of the schools of their choice. And some moved because one of the parents got a job that moved them.

But this time, it’s different. There is the BloomingdaleKids Yahoo group(est. 2009), which has been a wonderful resource for free and cheaper than new stuff, and a way to get rid of stuff. There are more daycares. There are now two daycares above the Shaw metro station (one on S the other on 7th& R-ish) and I see newer child care centers popping up in other locations around town. This time the school lottery is for DCPS and DC Charter Schools, all in one and you can put your child’s name in for 12 schools. There are more charters to choose from and the DCPS schools are improved. There are more reasons to stay and not move as kids get closer to kindergarten. Middle school… that’s a different story.

In the meantime, yay, babies.

Subsidized daycare

No this this not going to turn into a mommy blog, but parenting stuff is on my mind, a lot.Eyeglass binky DC bike map

Recently my daycare had an information session and though not said directly, I’m not paying full price for my son’s daycare. The DC government is requiring that child development staff have a 2 year AA degree. I don’t know how the DC government reimburses those who have to take on that burden. What I do know is that our day care provider takes local and federal monies to operate the place. Those of us paying “full price” aren’t really covering the full price necessary to run an accredited daycare center. As one who would prefer a smaller government footprint in her life, this was a little hard to accept. But then my daycare provider had a bunch of qualities I wanted at a price that worked better for me than other places, so I accept it like the ‘terms and conditions’ thing for a program I need.

One of the things mentioned in the info session was how much money the center got per kid for a feeding program. There was a form the center bugged us about inquiring about our income that I avoided and ignored because I knew we, a dual income family, made too much to qualify for subsidized food. After a phone call asking us please, please, please fill out the form, I did. Apparently they needed everyone’s income for a government program and the center gets so much for lower income kids and so much for those who aren’t low income. The difference is big enough that it seems that it would be bad if my daycare was not economically diverse.

The Childcare voucher program

Another thing that came out of the information session was questioning if we made too much for a voucher. The voucher covers a portion (maybe all, I didn’t catch that part) of the cost that the parent pays. There are bunch of things one needs to do to maintain their voucher status, but it was touted as a very good program. An example was provided of someone making what I would consider a good salary who qualified. They were very encouraging of the voucher program. So I checked out OSSE’s site and according to a report we qualified as we needed daycare for certain things. Regarding income: 200.7

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENT:

DOES THE FAMILY’S INCOME EXCEED THE MAXIMUM INCOME THRESHOLD?

In order to be eligible for subsidized care, the child shall reside with a family whose:

(1)Annual gross family income does not exceed two hundred and fifty percent (250%) of the federal poverty guideline (FPL) or eighty five percent (85%) of the DC median income (SMI) [sic] for a family of the same size, whichever is lower, as provided in Appendix 6: Maximum Income Guidelines for Subsidized Child Care; 

and (2)Family assets do not exceed $1,000,000
Well, our family assets are less than $1 million, but we’re above 400% of the 2017 FPL for a family our size, only because both my spouse and I are working. If one of us were to quit or die, we’d totally qualify.
Hey, we now have a safety school
In efforts to support the daycare and leaving no funding rock unturned, the daycare will be expanding into the Pre-K program. They will be starting a program in 2018 where they will be part of the DC pre-K program…. that’s why they need college educated staff/teachers. There is funding, they are going after the funding, and hopefully they will get enough participants lord willing.
What does this mean for me? For the babyman (formerly known as Helpless)? It means we have a safety school when he heads for the school lottery in 2-3 years. Oh hells yes we have been thinking about schools. There are two elementary charters with pre-K programs that I am thinking about for our son. My plan B (I also have Plans C-E) was to have Center City Charter as a safety school. Just like college, you have the school(s) you really want to go to and the safety school you apply to just in case the ones you really wanted don’t pan out. Now his daycare can be a safety school if the PK3 is still around (and we’re still in DC) when he hits the eligible age.
Ours isn’t the only daycare getting into the PK3-4 system. Associates for Renewal in Education, Inc. the center taking up space in the deteriorating Slater school, next to the crumbling Langston school on the unit block of P St is one. Maybe they, like our daycare have also been able to find monies under government and other rocks in order to hang on to that space with an iron grip….. Maybe that’s what we need for the crumbly schools on P Street, a developer to partner with a child development program, to create ‘family housing’ with daycare on the bottom floor.

Daycare- what I’m looking for is not what the government provides

Eyeglass binky DC bike mapThe Washington Post has an article that mentions a DC government website to help parents locate daycare/childcare. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has a website called My Child Care and it isn’t half bad. It is useful if you want to know where the daycare is, ranging from individuals caring in their home to full out child care centers. The Post article goes on to mention other resources, some paid, geared towards parents looking for child care.

What I can get out of the OSSE website is location, general age range, are vouchers taken, if is food provided and a few other things that are not too high on my list. The search function for hours is useless and you’d have to look at an individual provider’s operating hours, as there is a field where almost all the providers I searched were 12:00AM to 12:00AM, which is incorrect.

No what I was looking for beyond where were places were things no so well addressed by My Child Care. I wanted to know 1)do they take babies, 2) how much, and 3) is there a wait list and how bad is it? On the first point, My Child Care is so-so. There is an search field for infants 0-12 months, but 6 weeks seems to be the youngest for many places that take infants. On the second and third points there is no information. I found a website, Care Lulu that seems to allow for searching by price, and the 0-3 month age range but I did not see the price for individual day cares. Care Lulu did mention if places took 6 week old babies and I spotted one spot that took infants as young as 1 week, but that place has no openings.

Do I care about accreditations? My little guy hasn’t figured out crawling, or his name (he might just be ignoring me), so right now, no. It just has to be licensed, and better than the child care my mother provided when I and my sister were kids*.

But there are things the DC government cares about. I’m sure there is federal funding and grants behind those cares. As a entity that grants vouchers, they’d care who would take those vouchers. Yet, for the government to include the things I care about, including latest pick up time for infants before they start charging extra, and the other things I mentioned, they would need someone to be proactive in updating the list.

Better than nothing….

 

*I swear my mom just grabbed random women outside the county mental health clinic and asked if they’d watch us. We had some crazy babysitters. She laughs it off when I bring it up.

Looking at the neighborhood with different eyes

So at forty *mumble* years old, I’ve become a mommy through the miracle of adoption. Seven years prior I became a spouse, after living in Shaw as a single lady for about ten years*. I, and the Shaw neighborhood, have changed and with those changes I’ve experienced the neighborhood differently.

After only being a parent for a few months, my view of the neighborhood and the city I’ve lived in for over a decade has drastically changed.Eyeglass binky DC bike mapI’ve observed this in parents, typically people who moved to the neighborhood as single people or newlyweds, and in time had kids, and moved. On an intellectual level I understood the desire to protect their children from the hazards and unpleasantness of some aspects of urban life. As a member of the middle class, you know you have an out, you could, by moving to a solidly middle class neighborhood west of Rock Creek Park or out to certain suburbs or exurbs, you nor your children have to tolerate higher crime, smaller houses, chance of the draw schooling, and off street parking. Now as a mom, I have a better understanding and have the desire to protect my Helpless baby.

But no, we’re not moving anytime soon.

Not to go into my personal career goals, but there is one scenario that would send us to PG County and I’ve already mapped out where we’d relocate. I’ve also been applying to positions in DC and those have much fuzzier scenarios of possibly, probably not, moving to the H StreetCapitol HillStadium Armory area. The job search had more to do with getting married, and I’m more dedicated to a great commute than any neighborhood.

The arrival of the Helpless baby has got me thinking more about parenting things I had thoughts about, prior to his arrival, and parenting things I want to research the heck out of. I have thoughts, slightly unchanged, about schools, child care, general safety, and use of transit. I already know what charter schools we will aim for, what charter will be our safety school, and which religious schools we’ll consider if the charters don’t pan out. Recently I have been thinking about how I could replicate my aunts’ and uncles’ success of raising high earning middle class black men, and I wonder how our neighborhood might work for and against that goal. Then there is the minefield of explaining things that he will observe as we walk around. He’s still non-verbal so I have time.

As I walk around, going to and fro the metro or neighborhood businesses, I see the neighborhood differently. I pay attention to other parents or nannies as they push, carry or walk their charges. I observe their strollers, what their kids wear, and where it looks like they’re heading. I take note what places have parents with kids and how welcoming those places are so I know where we might be able to go. The parents I see going about their day help me feel good about being a parent raising my baby in my hood.

 

*If you’re counting I’ve been in Shaw for a little over 17 years.