Candidate: LaJoy Johnson-Law Position Sought: State Board of Education Ward 8
Address: 3702 2nd St SE Apt D, WDC, 20032
Charter Schools vs. DCPS
Ever-increasing enrollments in DCPCS forced the DCPS chancellor to propose closing fifteen DC Public Schools in an effort to manage scarce resources more efficiently. It’s been more than a decade since DC adopted Charter Schools. Name a specific benefit and challenge with both entities? If elected, what goals do you expect to provide?
I believe there needs to be a cohesive approach within our education system, which led me to write an op-ed in The Washington Post detailing the need for greater charter school transparency in the District of Columbia. A cohesive education system is crucial to ensure balanced and equitable outcomes for all of our children. All of our schools receive public dollars and should be subject to the same requirements across the board. Often, families are very confused about the different standards with over 60 LEAs. It is imperative to the success of our city and our government's democratic principles that we have a cohesive system of education, which includes both DCPS and DC Charter Schools -- especially for Special Education and ELL students. I will champion and collaborate with all stakeholders to achieve a cohesive education system by making sure I engage families, teachers, students, and all education stakeholders.
According to the CDC Mental Disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, which cause distress and problems getting through the day. Childhood trauma, being one aspect, is prevalent in some poverty to low income households. If elected, what can voters expect from you to improve this dilemma amongst school age children’s mental health?
I believe we should all be champions for Mental Health in our schools and ensure our students, families, teachers, and schools have the necessary mental health support to survive, persist, and thrive -- both in school and in life. In light of COVID19, it is even more critical that our schools have mental health supports. We should all be advocates to ensure that we fully fund the DC Department of Behavioral Health’s (DBH) proposed school-based mental health expansion with a $16 million budget allocation. We must increase DBH’s budget when our system is already strained to deploy providers to schools. It is
counterproductive and potentially deadly to cut DBH’s budget, especially when COVID-19 disproportionately impacts Ward 8 residents and, as a result, bear the brunt of the mental health repercussions of this pandemic. If elected, I will continue to champion for mental health resources for all of our schools. All of our students, families, teachers, and schools deserve quality mental health resources.
Preparing Students Academically
According to the Non-profit Hechinger Report each year, when they get to campus, more than half a million American college students have to take so-called remedial or developmental education classes to teach them basic math and English skills they should have learned in high school. Main-stream media and written newspaper articles have constantly reported how DC students are ill prepared for college and the workforce after Secondary Graduation. If elected what would be a priority of yours to change this dilemma?
Our education system must ensure that our DC students are prepared for life after they leave school. If elected, I will push for more technical and vocational training, college readiness, financial literacy, and life skills courses. Our students should be holistic individuals and be given every option to ensure they are ready for life after DC education. I will also be a champion for families to make these decisions with their students in regards to determining new standards to ensure our children have every option to succeed.
The Coronavirus pandemic has brought on new challenges in the classroom of learning. In DC textbooks, laptops and school materials are the necessities for a quality learning environment within a classroom setting. The American Academy of Pediatrics, a national association of pediatricians, issued guidance July 1, 2020 advocating for in-person classes in the fall. Remote learning, the academy said, will likely result in severe learning loss and social isolation that can lead to serious emotional and health issues for students. If elected, what improvements would you promote to implement during these challenging times?
Our schools should only open when it is safe for everyone. We should have a Caregiver/Families centered approach that will ensure we design a strategy that will meet the needs of families to provide more robust student engagement. When schools partner and design solutions with families and teachers to address their concerns -- our children thrive.
Our teachers are our family, and we want all families in our community to be safe, and right now, that means participating in distance learning. Academic loss can be fixed, but we cannot fix the loss of life.
On July 1, 2020 DCIST reported Teachers in D.C. Public Schools are pushing back against preliminary plans to reopen schools in the fall, arguing the city school system has not adequately addressed health and safety concerns. Before the pandemic challenges, teachers were being physically and mentally abused in one-on-one personal classroom settings and the students’ behavior has become a big challenge. How do you see yourself being able to address these concerns?
As a city, we need to ensure that teachers are trained and equipped to support every student regardless of ability or need. If elected to the SBOE, I will ensure that teachers receive high- quality training in trauma-informed practices and technical skills about assisting students with diverse needs. I will also promote a deep partnership between the Department of Behavioral Health and all schools to ensure that schools and teachers have the resources and expertise that they need to thrive. We must equip teachers and families with the tools they need to be the best advocates. We can only do that if we provide quality training and resources to those charged with stewarding the next generation.