Code4Life is an after-school program created by the Economic Growth DC Foundation in partnership with Accenture that teaches basic computer programming skills to middle-school students.
We’ll be teaching Code4Life in about 30 classrooms in DC public and charter schools this semester, and so we need to hire 30 instructors to teach our curriculum. See below for details and instructions on how to sign-up.
The “Sputnik Crisis” was triggered by the launch of Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite, on October 4, 1957 from what is now known as the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It stirred within the American people a sense that they had fallen behind the Soviet Union technologically, and in the “race for space.”
But Americans didn’t panic. In short order, they created the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA. Less than a year after the launch of Sputnik, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act. It was a four-year program that poured billions into the U.S. education system.
Within a decade, the U.S. had launched the first human into space. We landed on the moon in 1969. The U.S. has dominated space exploration ever since. Countless technological innovations sprung from that period, from Tang to the World Wide Web.
2017 represents a new Sputnik moment. The American workforce is at risk of being left behind. The next century will be one dominated by information technology.
If American workers are not equipped with the skills required to succeed in our technology-based future, we risk falling permanently behind in a variety of ways. It is time for America to accept the challenge of the next century and put the same level of effort that followed Sputnik into preparing its workforce for the 21st century.
Astronauts will land on Mars, but it is the computer scientists who will get them there.
The most important education policy challenge we face in America today is improving access to computer science education. Only a fraction of our school districts, mainly in Silicon Valley, have integrated full-blown computer science education into their regular for-credit curriculum. Our foundation and many others are actively advocating for the completion of this integration as quickly as possible, but Congress has been slow to act.
Until then, Code4Life is a first of its kind after-school program developed by our charitable arm, the Economic Growth DC Foundation, in partnership with Accenture. It teaches basic computer programming skills to middle-school students. As good as the program may be, it is a crude substitute for the full-scale integration of computer science education into the regular for-credit curriculum. Until national policymakers and our patchwork of local school-districts across the country get serious about the integration, programs like Code4Life will play an important role in experimenting with best practices.
Our program is designed to impart to middle-school students the basic computer programming and development skills that will provide them with the tools and the confidence to pursue a career in computer science.
While many of our participants will pursue undergraduate degrees, there are numerous career paths within computer science that provide an opportunity to earn a middle-class living that do not require a four-year degree. Our program is designed to provide a foundation from which a career in computer science can be built.
The program began in September of 2014 with one classroom and 15 students at KIPP NE Academy in Trinidad. When our Spring 2017 semester begins in March, we will be operating in 14 classrooms in 10 schools with over 200 children participating in the program.
One of the problems with computer science in America today is its lack of diversity. About 90% of all computer scientists are white males. Our program requires that at least 50% of the participants at each of our schools are girls and the vast majority of our participants are African-American or Latino.
Accenture volunteers teach Module One at KIPP NE Academy
How It Works
The class meets for two hours after school, one day per week, for 8 consecutive weeks in each semester.
The program is designed for students to remain with us working on progressively more complex programming throughout their middle school careers.
We teach four different curricula we call Modules each semester. Technical staff at Accenture developed the curriculum for Module One based on a programming language developed at the University of California at Berkeley called SNAP. It’s a visually oriented entry-level programming language designed to introduce students to programming for the first time.
Module Two is an HTML and CSS class that was developed by IT staff at George Washington University that teaches participants how to code basic websites. Module Three is an introduction to big data and data analytics developed by Accenture, and Module Four introduces students to smartphone app development using a language developed at MIT.
A Code4Life student presents her final project
Code4Life is funded by a fee paid by each school per classroom per semester. While these fees cover most of our expenses, we are constantly raising money to support our expansion and curriculum development. To support Code4Life financially, simply click the “Contribute” button at the top of the page. The Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) public charity. Your contribution is fully tax-deductible as a charitable gift. If you like to learn more about the benefits of supporting Code4Life, contact our executive director, Dave Oberting, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to bring Code4Life to your school, email us at email@example.com.
Here are some links to recent news coverage of Code4Life:
Debate rages in the District of Columbia over the costs and wisdom of a District-wide paid leave program. The point we make on this issue is employers do not pay payroll taxes. They merely pass them along to employees in the form of lower wages, fewer hours, jobs lost, more expensive health coverage, fewer vacation days, etc. This is widely accepted accounting principle from the Congressional Budget Office on down. See the attached document.
Last year, the Seattle city-council voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour over several years. It also mandated the creation of a Seattle Minimum Wage Study Team to analyze the results of the increases on wages, employment and local businesses. The study team recently released a report covering the first year of the implementation, when the minimum wage rose to $11 per hour.
It should be mandatory reading for every District policymaker:
Here is the proposition that underlies all that we do at Economic Growth DC: the right to a decent full-time job is the most basic and fundamental entitlement of them all. It is the cornerstone of social justice. It is the foundation of human dignity.
We often forget that the full name of Dr. King’s pilgrimage to the nation’s capital in 1963 was the “March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom.” Was it simply a typo that Dr. King put jobs before freedom in the title of his speech, or was it a conscious ranking of his priorities?
What would Dr. King think if he found out that 50 years have passed, and in the city where his march was held, 88,773 people (out of a population of 658,000) over the age of 16 still live in poverty? And how would he feel if he heard that only 1.6% of them had the opportunity to hold a full-time job at some point in the last year.
Every day that goes by that a District resident doesn’t have the opportunity to work full-time is another day that our local government has failed that resident.
For it is the District government that bears responsibility when the economy slows, and job growth sputters. Our elected officials hold the keys to the legal and regulatory structures that permit an economy to function. When that architecture fails, it is not the fault of the man on the corner searching for the means to feed his family.
We’ll work every day, with every tool at our disposal, to bring you a faster growing economy capable of creating a full-time job for every working-age District resident.
We’ll work every day to radically improve our job training system so that it imparts the skills that District residents need to command the high-wage jobs of the next generation.
We’ll work every day to urgently and dramatically improve our K-12 education system so that by graduation every District student can think critically, solve problems, communicate effectively, and collaborate as part of a team.
And we’ll work every day to make sure that every 12th-grader is prepared for a four-year college program, a technical training program, an apprenticeship, or in special cases, a good-paying job in the local economy.
Dave Oberting is the executive director at Economic Growth DC, an economic policy organization focused on the District and its economy. You can email Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When a visitor comes to the District, they look around and see dozens of construction cranes, 300 shiny new restaurants opened in just the last two years and inevitably think the District must be booming.
There are certain segments of the economy that are doing well and affluent residents have benefitted tremendously, but there is another side to the story. For thousands of District residents at the lower end of the education and income distribution, things are not good.
For insight into what’s really going on with the District’s economy, we’ve assembled and analyzed a mountain of economic data. Click below to see the full presentation.
Today we’ve cleaned up a couple of errors. In particular, we under-reported some sales tax data. Sales tax has actually trended positive, so we changed the presentation to reflect that. We also made the job growth data easier to understand.
“The District’s economy needs to grow at a significantly faster rate in order to create the number and kinds of jobs we’ll need over the next generation. Faster growth is required to increase the incomes of District residents, and we need it to produce the amount of tax revenue we’ll need to do the things the District says it wants to do in areas like affordable housing, homelessness and Medicaid. The research, programs, and initiatives we undertake are short, medium, and long term efforts to facilitate faster economic growth and the job creation that comes with it.” — Dave Oberting, Executive Director
Our current priorities are:
Economic Growth DC
Regulatory Reform — Reducing the cost and increasing the ease of doing business in the District of Columbia are two of Economic Growth DC’s primary goals. Both the cost and the ease of doing business are products primarily of the regulatory process. Reducing the complexity of our regulatory system and reducing the cost of compliance would provide an immediate boost to economic growth. We will take advantage of every opportunity to move towards a simpler, smarter regulatory architecture.
Regulatory Review & Amendment Act — This bill, as proposed by Economic Growth DC, would require the District government to calculate and weigh the costs and benefits of all regulations expected to have an economic impact in excess of a certain amount. It will add much needed transparency to the regulatory process as many regulations act as a hidden tax on consumers who ultimately bear the burden of those regulations.
Tax Reform — A Tax Revision Commission organized by Mayor Vincent Gray and led by former Mayor Anthony Williams conducted a comprehensive review of the District’s tax framework over the past 18 months. They recommended a number of changes to the tax code that were subsequently adopted into legislation championed by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. The most important of these changes lowered income tax rates on moderate to middle income DC residents. We believe this should be the beginning of the tax revision process, not the end. Our basic tax philosophy is we should incentivize work by lowering the tax on it. We will advocate in the coming year for more progress on our tax code.
District of Columbia National Disaster Insurance Protection Act — If passed, this federal legislation would empower the District to compete with off-shore jurisdictions to keep insurance company catastrophe reserves in the U.S. by providing tax incentives for such funds to be maintained in the District of Columbia. This legislation would open the door to the creation of thousands of high-paying jobs in the region and billions of dollars in new economic activity.
Economic Fact Sheet — Many business owners and managers have made it clear to Economic Growth DC that they often feel misunderstood and unappreciated by the DC government and residents alike. We believe this is because the business community at-large has not done a good job of articulating the contribution that it makes to the the well-being of District residents. Economic Growth DC created an economic fact sheet for the District that details the contributions that are made annually by the District’s 21,592 private businesses. Click here to view: DC Economic Fact Sheet
Economic Impact Analysis — Chairman Phil Mendelson included in the council rules a provision for the conduct of an economic impact analysis on pending legislation. It is to be performed by the Council’s budget office. This is an excellent first step, but this analysis should be codified into law for both legislation and regulations. Having a better understanding of what individual laws and regulations cost the economy in terms of lost economic activity and slower job growth is the foundation of a good legislative and rule making process. We have proposed a Regulatory Review Act that would require the Chief Financial Officer to conduct an economic analysis on any proposed regulation over a certain dollar value that would calculate the cost that a particular regulation would impose on the private economy. It would also allow for a retrospective review and amendment process for older regulations. This law could easily be expanded to include legislation.
Labor Law Changes — The District’s labor laws contain perverse incentives that encourage District businesses to relocate to the suburbs upon reaching a certain size and a certain number of employees. We’d like to work with the Council to reform our labor law system to make it more competitive with Virginia and other parts of the country. These reforms will be especially important as the technology start-ups the District has invested so much in begin to mature and start hiring serious numbers of people. These changes can be made at very little cost to the District and without sacrificing important employee protections.
Land Transfers — The District should seek out more opportunities to acquire unproductive federal lands, develop them, and reap the tax benefits of increased economic activity.
Reforming Telecommunications Regulation — Telcom, IT and the internet industry represent the most dynamic part of our economy, and yet they suffer from some of the most outdated local regulations imaginable. There is more competition in telecommunications than there’s ever been in the District — Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cricket, RCN, AT&T, MagicJack, and Vonage just to name a few — but they are still regulated like a rotary dial monopoly. The Public Service Commission should move to modernize the telecommunications regulatory architecture this year.
Fostering Micro-Manufacturing — The District has historically been locked out of the manufacturing industry due to high real estate costs and lack of space. There is a new industry taking shape that would allow the District to become a specialty manufacturing center in its own right. Micro-manufacturing, using 3D printers, is the fastest growing form of manufacturing in the country. They are largely small businesses who’ve used this amazing technology to make a wide variety of products. We’d like to propose legislation that would clear out some of the regulatory and zoning barriers that would enable this industry to take root and prosper in the District. 3D printer technicians do not need a college degree and the jobs generally pay $15-20 per hour. We should be moving quickly to establish a legal and a streamlined regulatory framework for fostering the growth of this industry.
Science and Engineering Campus — The District intends to become the premier technology center on the east coast. If you look at the other tech hotbeds around the country — Silicon Valley, Boston, and Austin — the one thing they all have in common is a massive research institution like Stanford, MIT, and the University of Texas. These institutions produce not just the technology graduates that start companies, but the technology itself that can be commercialized. The City of New York and Cornell University have partnered to build a massive technology campus on Roosevelt Island in NYC. Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it easily the best tool NY will have for accelerating future economic growth. Stanford finished second in the open competition to build the campus on Roosevelt Island. Somewhere in the president’s office at Stanford is a 600 page proposal for a 150-acre, $2 billion campus that would fit perfectly at St. Elizabeth’s. The District government should move heaven and earth to get Stanford to build that campus here.
Crowdfunding — This technology provides important access to capital for District start-ups and small businesses. The District has proposed rules to govern crowdsourcing transactions. We’ll work to see these rules implemented as quickly as possible.
Attract Venture Capital Firms — Increasing the amount of venture capital funding that flows into the District is key to our long-term growth. The District is actively fostering early stage technology firms with investments in things like 1776. Our startup community is moving towards a critical mass of invest-able companies, but we won’t attract significantly more venture funding if the people who make those investments are not physically in the District. We’ll be proposing an incentive package to entice the largest venture firms like Kleiner Perkins, Andresssen Horiwitz, Sequoia and Graylock to set up shop in the District proper.
Anacostia River — We support the efforts of the United for a Healthy Anacostia River Coalition — Lack of development on the banks of the Anacostia is the most visible effect of the deadly chemicals that have been poured into the Anacostia for decades. We consider the cleanup of the Anacostia to be an important economic initiative. We will help the Coalition wherever we can.
Economic Growth DC Foundation
Code4Life — Is an after-school program created in partnership with technology giant Accenture that teaches DCPS and charter school middle-school students basic computer programming. The program is designed to put District students on a pathway to a high-wage occupation that does not necessarily require a college degree. The program launched successfully at KIPP NE Academy this fall. We are currently planning our expansion to three additional schools in February.
Re-entry Job Placement Program — The Foundation is working on the development and implementation of an ex-offender job placement program similar to one that was originally developed in Newark, NJ through a partnership between Mayor Corey Boooker and the Manhattan Institute. The Newark program has experienced real success with its rapid attachment to work job placement model designed to get returning citizens into the workforce quickly. They have experienced a much higher employment and retention rate than typical ex-offender efforts, as well as lower rates of recidivism. At his point, it looks like the program will require substantial private funding.
Decriminalization — The District decriminalized marijuana in 2014. That action should be the beginning of a sustained campaign to reduce the over-criminalization of DC’s civil society. We will advocate for the formation of a commission which will be responsible for making recommendations for the reduction of certain felonies to misdemeanors, and misdemeanors to civil infractions. Over-criminalization is not unique to the District. At the federal level, there are over 3,000 criminal offenses, and over 300,000 regulations that carry criminal penalties. This is a phenomenon at both the local and national levels that should be rolled back.
Modern Entrepreneurship Program — This program is essentially a venture capital fund for minority micro-entrepreneurs. The twist is experienced business professionals associated with two U.S. AID contractors with considerable development experience overseas will embed with these entrepreneurs for up to a year. The intensive management assistance is designed to lower the risk profile of these investments. This program also requires private funding.
Leadership Development Training Class — In partnership with the DC Leadership Development Council, the Foundation seeks to launch a high-school level leadership development training class for high-potential students at DCPS high schools. This class is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2014. The Foundation will administer and underwrite the program. The DC Leadership Devel0pment Council will assemble the curriculum and and provide the instructors.
Job Placement Coordinator Training — The District provides the bulk of its job training and youth development programs through non-profit social service providers. Each of those providers has at least one person that is responsible for placing their program’s graduates into jobs upon completion of that training. The Foundation uses its private sector job placement expertise to offer free instruction to any of these placement coordinators interested in professional development. This training helps placement coordinators become more effective at what they do, thereby increasing the number of people who are placed into jobs at the conclusion of their training.
Research — We are currently seeking a Director of Education Policy. This individual will be responsible for organizing and analyzing education policy research that is of interest to EGDCF, as well as conducting original research focused on blended learning and improving educational outcomes. If you would be interested in being considered, please forward your resume to email@example.com.
Apprenticeships — The Foundation is working with several partners, including organized labor, to implement a much broader use of apprenticeships. Germany is an excellent example of how to use apprenticeships aggressively to provide higher levels of skill. Apprenticeships are not just for the construction trades. There are dozens of professions ripe for the use of apprenticeships.
Office of Military Preparedness — The military is an excellent career opportunity for District youth. We will be encouraging DCPS to open an Office of Military Preparedness to coordinate the efforts of the various junior ROTC programs, as well as with the various military recruiting commands. The military should be given greater access to students and guidance counselors.
In this article in the Washington Business Journal, reporter Michael Neibauer writes about an upcoming regulatory change by the District’s Department of the Environment:
The District is proposing to prohibit non-road diesel engines from idling for more than a few minutes at one time, citing the emissions spewed by the equipment and the environmental and health damage those emissions may cause.
No sane person would say no to the idea of helping the environment and public health by decreasing the amount of carbon emissions produced on District construction sites.
But the way DDOE intends to implement this mandate makes no sense. They have proposed a rule that would deny a company the flexibility of keeping a piece of machinery idling for more than three minutes at a time.
This would lead to construction workers stopping what they’re doing every three minutes to rev up a machine, or to constant fines from DDOE investigators. Starting and stopping, whether for an engine or a power plant is less efficient than continuous operation. The lost productivity alone will lead to more emissions, negating the effects of the rule. It might make it worse.
That is the unwise micro-management of a construction site, and it’s a perfect example of the District regulating for process rather than regulating for outcomes. What is the outcome DDOE seeks in this case? They want to reduce carbon emissions, particulate matter and other criteria pollutants in the District by an unspecified amount.
Let’s say it’s 0.007%, just to pick a number out of a hat. Why not tell Clark Construction or Miller & Long that you want them to reduce the carbon emissions on their job site by 0.007% and let them come back to you with a plan for meeting that objective.
That gets you to the right outcome without the heavy hand of government gumming up the works on every construction site in the city.
In a previous post, Where to Start with Regulatory Reform, we made the case for changing the incentives that govern the way regulators are measured and compensated. Today, we offer a starting point for the District’s regulatory reform efforts:
In a Washington Post article dated July 10th about Aetna’s withdrawal from the DC health insurance exchange, well-respected health policy consultant Bob Laszewski had this to say:
“The District has never been thought of as an attractive market. It’s not a state — it’s one city, one moderate-sized city, and it’s also known for extreme regulation. When you have a small market that gives a lot of regulatory trouble, for insurers, it’s like why bother?”
Aetna said why bother. Who knows how many other organizations have said as much when considering whether to do business in the District over the last decade. Yes, we’re a relatively small market, but we have a high level of disposable income. The profit-making opportunities should outweigh the lack of overall size of the market.
We believe the District government should be making a public and serious effort to make the District a better, easier and less expensive place to do business. The area in which we have the most control over the cost and ease of doing business in DC is our regulatory system. The District government should undertake a highly visible effort to reform the way we regulate almost everything.
Keep in mind, the District’s economy has grown at an average rate of only 1.28% since 2007, and it grew at a rate of 0.47% over the last two years. All of the most important challenges we face — a real unemployment rate in double digits, an increase in extreme poverty, growth in inequality, and a homelessness crisis — can all be traced directly back to slow growth.
How to fix it
Only the deep, structural reform and modernization of the way we regulate will create the framework from which our economy can break loose from the bonds of slow growth and meet the needs of all its citizens.
The work of modernizing the District’s regulatory architecture will be painful and slow. It’s technical in nature and requires the help of subject matter experts in a range of disciplines. It is not glamorous by any means, which is why most politicians don’t like to touch it. But it has to be done, and somebody’s got to do it. It’s time to man the barricades.
One of the keys to any regulatory reform is changing the incentives for regulators. As it stands, a regulator is compensated and measured based on how many rules get written. We’ve got to stop measuring process and start measuring outcomes.
Where to start
We’ve targeted four areas as being particularly ripe for reform:
Labor Markets — As described in this op-ed in the Washington Business Journal, the District’s labor market has become sclerotic and inflexible. The op-ed calls for the creation of a labor market commission similar in scope to the tax revision commission that recently overhauled the District’s tax system.
Telecommunications — Telcom companies are heavily regulated by the FCC, including the infamous Title II regulations originally designed for the regulation of the railroads. DC’s local telcom market is as competitive as it’s ever been. The time has come to overhaul the PSC and the way it regulates telecommunications companies that do business in the District.
Healthcare — If there were a more favorable regulatory climate, the District’s health market is large enough to warrant being here. Simplifying the way we regulate both insurers and healthcare providers will attract more of both.
Criminal Justice — From decriminalization through sentencing reform, there is strong bipartisan support for the reform of the criminal justice system. Oftentimes you have to dig to find the moral basis for regulatory reform. When it comes to the criminal justice system, it’s there for everyone to see.
Over the next few months, Economic Growth DC will be establishing committees of experts in each of these subject areas who will come together to produce recommendations for reforms. If you are an expert in any of these subject areas and would like to contribute to our efforts, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.