ERN Testifies in Support of Behavioral Health Services and Dual Enrollment
April 14, 2023
DC Council, Committee of the Whole
Budget Oversight Hearing
Student Civic Leader
Bard High School Early College DC
Good afternoon Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole. My name is Joshua Davis, and I am a senior at Bard High School Early College DC and a civic leader for Education Reform Now DC. Today, I am here to speak about two critical issues pertinent to this year’s budget: school based behavior health and dual enrollment.
Firstly, I want to commend Bard for its commitment to students’ mental health. During my freshman year, I struggled with anxiety that stemmed from the pressure to succeed academically. This anxiety negatively impacted my grades and overall well-being. Thankfully, Bard’s resources, including counseling sessions with a school-based mental health professional, allowed me to access the support I needed to overcome that anxiety. This experience has empowered me to speak before you today.
You all have been witness to the countless stories recounted by my peers and other advocates regarding the mental health challenges students face. The connection between trauma and the cycles of violence in DC is clear, and mental health services are a key component for addressing these issues. To ensure that all students have the support they need today, we must start by increasing funding for school-based behavioral health services to $3.45M in the FY24 budget. This will ensure that schools can provide at least one clinician in every public school to support all of my peers.
Additionally, DC must create opportunities for students to earn a degree in fields such as psychology, social work, or human services. It’s time we create a local pipeline of future social workers, counselors, and psychologists by creating a Master of Social Work program at UDC and providing scholarships to make the MSW and Master of Counseling programs free for DC residents and those who work in DC. I urge the committee to hold a hearing on the “Pathways to Behavioral Health Degrees Act of 2023.”
Secondly, I want to touch on dual enrollment. It is concerning that only 8 out of 100 students in DC will go on to complete postsecondary education within six years after high school. Research shows that students participating in dual enrollment programs are more likely to enroll in and complete college. Bard has been around since 2018 and partners with several local colleges and universities, including George Washington University and Georgetown University, to allow credits to transfer in various subjects. I will graduate with an associates degree. As a dual enrollment program participant, I have gained invaluable experience and confidence in my ability to succeed in higher education. We have the data, the stories, and the resources, there is no reason why every student in DC should not have that same opportunity.
In conclusion, I want to emphasize the importance of mental health and dual enrollment and how Bard High School has been leading in addressing these issues. I strongly urge the DC Council to increase funding to ensure every school has one clinician and for the Committee of the Whole to hold a hearing on B25-0055, “Pathways to Behavioral Health Degrees Act of 2023.” Thank you for your time and attention.