Briya Successfully Advocates for a Child Lottery Preference

Briya Successfully Advocates for a Child Lottery Preference

briya student Yizel testifyingYizel Romero and her daughter, Daniela, attend school together at Briya — Yizel is studying to earn her Child Development Associate credential and Daniela is in prekindergarten. Together they participate in Family Time and take advantage of the school’s extensive wraparound services. This holistic two-generation approach is foundational to Briya’s success and to improving families’ educational outcomes and social and economic mobility.

Briya is DC’s only two-generation school chartered to serve young children and their parents together. Briya’s unique model often means that citywide policies do not take into account the context of families attending the same school. In 2020, Briya successfully advocated to change one such piece of legislation — the DC School Reform Act of 1995 (SRA) — to be more inclusive of families learning together. This law established the processes for opening and operating charter schools in the District and allowed for charters to serve students as young as three years old through adults. The SRA also establishes the criteria for school lotteries.

Prior to 2020, lottery preferences could be given to siblings of an attending or admitted student, children of founding board members, children of staff, children with special needs, and/or children of active-duty service members. In July 2020, DC City Council Chair Phil Mendelson and Education Committee Chair David Grosso co-introduced a bill that would add a child lottery preference to the SRA. On July 31, 2020, Briya students, staff, board members, and supporters of the school testified at a joint hearing of the Committee of the Whole and the Committee on Education (Briya testimony begins at 1:52:00).

One highlight of the hearing was the testimony of 10-year-old Adenia Tesfalidet, the daughter of Briya student Zaid Gebrekidan. Although Adenia never attended Briya, she talked about how the school has impacted her family and how expansion and replication of two-generation programming could benefit many more families in DC.

Adenia said, “I am proud to say that I am a good student who speaks Spanish, English, Amharic, and Tigrinya. I have many achievements including principal awards and honor rolls. I also participate in many different activities such as sports, clubs, and student council. I wouldn’t have been able to do all this without my mom learning English at Briya and being an example for me. It makes it much easier for her to support me. Briya’s two-generation program has been so helpful for me and my family, and I know that there are many other families in DC who can benefit from this model either at Briya or at another school. If this bill is passed, more two-generation schools can open, or existing schools could create adult education programs for parents while their children are in school.”

On October 2, 2020, the DC City Council unanimously passed the bill establishing a child lottery preference. In December, the SRA was amended and now states, “a preference in admission may be given to an applicant who is a sibling or child of a student already attending or selected for admission to the public charter school in which the applicant is seeking enrollment” (Section 38–1802.06(c)(1)).

While the addition of these two words — “or child” — may seem small, it will have a substantial impact on parents and children who want to enroll in school together. It allows for parents like Yizel and Zaid to study alongside their children and for their families to reap the benefits of two-generation education. In her testimony in July, Yizel noted, “These classes have let me grow as a parent and enjoy spending quality time with my daughter in the same place as well as educate my children with positive discipline.” While Briya is currently the only DC charter school with a two-generation model, this preference could also be applied to a PK-12 school where a teen parent and child wish to enroll together or to an existing school that would like to start complementary programming for children or adults.