Jack Evans Report: Back to School, Work
Summer is over, and the kids are all back at school. The routine has returned, and the Council’s schedule is no exception. We go back into session on Sept. 15. Our first legislative meeting will be held on Sept. 17.
Although the Council doesn’t formally meet between July 15 and Sept. 15, a Ward councilmember’s work is never done. My staff and I were busy all summer long addressing constituent issues around the Ward, such as parking, sidewalk, traffic and city service issues. I was also pleased to attend a number of community events, such as the 55th anniversary of Ben’s Chili Bowl. This iconic institution functions as a time capsule for our city, having survived the riots of the 1960s and hosting everyone from mayors to Bill Cosby to President Barack Obama.
On the subject of education, our public schools will continue to be a primary focus of mine this year. I am committed to providing top notch facilities for every student in the District. I identified the funding for the School Modernization Act a number of years ago, committing the staggering amount of $100 million per year to ensure that students in every Ward in the city would have access to state of the art facilities. Unfortunately, despite unparalleled facilities and the highest per-pupil operating budget in the nation, our schools continue to underperform. And despite having the most richly funded education system in the country, we still do not have a librarian at every school. Because of this, I introduced a bill to mandate that all schools have a school librarian, art teacher, music teacher, and physical education teacher, and am hopeful it will be enacted into law this year.
On a related point, we have spent a fortune renovating our neighborhood libraries, but they have irregular evening hours and are closed on Sundays, making it hard for families and children to use them for school projects. I introduced a bill for increased library hours last year and pushed for it to be included in our budget this year. As a result, beginning on Oct. 1, our libraries will be open for longer and more consistent hours, including Sundays. I also believe it is important for our children and young adults to have arts education. I identified an additional $6.8 million in our budget last year to fund arts initiatives in the District, filling a gap in programming left in our public schools, and pushed for a dedicated funding stream for the arts in future years that will work in a similar way to school modernization and ensure that these critical programs are funded every year.
Finally, the mayor and the Council must continue to focus on economic development and job creation. As the economy continues to improve, we must take advantage of opportunities to enhance the opportunities available for residents of all wards of the city. In that regard, we are beginning the application process for the 600 new jobs at the new Convention Center Hotel, all for District residents.
I look forward to the upcoming Council session and working on the challenges ahead.