D.C. Kids Project Pros and Cons of City Living

The former William Syphax Elementary school in Southwest was reconditioned into luxury condominiums several years ago. Its impact on the educational attainment of Ward 6 children has not been fully assessed. (Courtesy photo)

As the District continues to shift into overdrive with major housing developments and neighborhood reconstruction, D.C. Action for Kids (and their D.C. Kids Count), an organization that provides data-based analysis on critical issues facing D.C. children, has produced an online data book to offer insight into the overall livability of the city for children. And while the data works as stand-alone source information, it also helps project by Ward, the health, well-being, educational growth, and financial security of the city’s youth.

According to D.C. Kids Count, the Ward-level analysis, in the hands of civic leaders and lawmakers, can have a profound effect on future education, housing, and career policies. Wardlevel data provides clearer pictures of children’s well-being than District-wide averages, which often do not capture disparate outcomes and assets for children. Each snapshot includes D.C. Kids Count indicators in five categories: demographics, economic well-being, health, family and community, and education.

The importance of raw data in calculating progress and poverty can be found in the success of the report, Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States, a project quantifying the effects of safety-net programs and tax policies on families.

“The official poverty measure does not provide the accurate information policymakers need to measure the success of anti-poverty programs – nationally and at the state level,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Relying on this tool alone prevents policymakers from gauging the effectiveness of government programs aimed at reducing child poverty. Given that child poverty costs our society an estimated $500 billion a year in lost productivity and earnings as well as health- and crime-related costs, the SPM is an important tool that should be used to assess state-level progress in fighting poverty.”

The data, however, requires nuancing to gauge proper progress or decline. In Ward 6, for instance, the median family income increased from $39,486 in 2000 to $97,266 between 2007 and 2011. This increase – of 146 percent – occurred alongside a decrease in children living in poverty from 36 percent to 27 percent. The data suggests an increase in wealth and stability, but actually illuminates the push of low- and moderate-income residents out of the area with the razing of their homes for the erection of Nationals Stadium.

Ward 6 resident Dawn Spencer said that the closure of two Southwest elementary schools – Anthony Bowen, which merged with Margaret Amidon, and William Syphax, which was remodeled into a luxury condominium, complicate the data set for children attending K-12 schools in the area.

“The data is important and will definitely arm child advocates, but it is critical that with this data, the voices of the residents who understand that decreases in educational achievement may be the result of merging or closing schools and the subsequent destruction of low student-teacher ratios,” Spencer said. “Based on these realities, it is difficult to take the numbers to heart, though I am pleased that it is broken down by Ward.

For more information on the D.C. Kids Count Snapshots, visit, www.dcactionforchildren.org.