Educating Young Adults is Important to Them and Their Children

Education
Racial Equity

Arlington Mill High School is an alternative high school located in Arlington, Virginia, and helps teenagers and young adults, who are hardworking and motivated to succeed, with the courses and skills they need to obtain a high school diploma. A majority of the students are low-income, immigrants who are working full- or part-time jobs at the same time they are pursuing their high school degree.

This is an innovative program launched by the Arlington County School System that is making a difference in the lives of these students. In this country, we profess to adhere to the notion that hard work should be rewarded, and the kids and young adults at Arlington Mill High School are doing just that.

For this reason alone, the Arlington Superintendent and Arlington School Board should reject a current proposal to “discontinue providing adults (22 years and older) a high school education.” If these budget cuts were adopted, it would negatively impact at least 60 percent of Arlington Mill High School’s student population of almost 400 students and could possibly lead to the demise of the entire school.

We know the negative consequences that face young adults who do not have a high school diploma and I know that advocates for protecting Arlington Mill High School and its students will be highlighting these consequences. However, I think it is important to go beyond these current students and also consider the consequences that the failure of obtaining a high school degree will likely have on the next generation of children in Arlington County, since many of these young adults are or will be in the process of forming families in the near future.

First, we know that child development is closely linked to their parents’ education and that parents’ level of education attainment is a strong predictor of children’s educational and economic outcomes.

For example, we know that parents with a high school diploma earn nearly $200 more per week than their peers without a high school diploma. That’s over $10,000 more per year, which is important because research reveals that an increase of only $1,000 to a family’s income improves their children’s success in school.

We also know that the unemployment rate for people without a high school diploma is aboutone-third higher than those with a high school degree. Furthermore, children with unemployed parents are more likely to live in poverty, be homeless, and be subjected to child abuse and neglect.

This concept of thinking of young adults and their children is referred to as a dual-generation strategy. Although this approach usually is focused on working with parents and children together, and some of the students at Arlington Mill High School fit this description, it is also important to consider that many of them will be having children in the near future. In both circumstances, for the parents and their children, it is important for Arlington County Public Schools to keep this innovative program alive.

Again, if for no other reason, the Arlington Superintendent and School Board should adhere to the American notion that hard work should be rewarded, and allow Arlington Mill’s capable and motivated students to pursue their high school diplomas. But equally or perhaps even more important, ensuring that these students can graduate from high school will improve the health, education, and economic outcomes for their children and grandchildren, who will be contributors to the future of Arlington County. That is in all of our best interest.