By Sarah Donofrio
Mayor Muriel Bowser held a student journalism panel on Tuesday, April 11 to discuss her fiscal year 2018 budget with D.C. high school and college students. Student journalists from Catholic University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, and American University were in attendance as well as students from D.C. public high schools. Mayor Bowser answered questions related to the goals of her budget and discussed its impact on Washington D.C. public school students and her goals to improve college and employment opportunities in D.C. The thirty minute round table panel was broadcast on the Mayor’s channel and gave student journalists the opportunity to both ask questions and voice concerns.
As the second student journalist round table with Mayor Bowser, the panel focused specifically on Mayor Bower’s 2018 budget. After delivering her State of the District Address on March 30, Mayor Bowser was able to report the economic state of the District of Columbia in relation to her investments in education.
“We’re experiencing some of our most healthy fiscal times in the history of Washington,” said Bowser. “That allows us to make the type of investments that will continue to make our city safer and our families stronger.”
Before opening the panel to questions from student journalists, Mayor Bowser discussed various investments of her budget. She referenced a new childcare initiative, relevant to young people relocating in D.C. The 2018 budget invests $15.3 million dedicated to improving D.C. residents’ access to affordable infant and toddler care, through providing infant and toddler seats and supporting D.C. residents attempting to gain teaching certification. Mayor Bowser also aims to increase African American prosperity and reduce unemployment in Washington, D.C.
Public safety is also an important focus of Bowser’s 2018 Budget, which impacts both students in college and high school.
“We’ve been very proud in our administration in the last two years to drive down crime across the city,” said Bowser. “We’ve had an even bigger focus on driving down crime in the first place, and providing more opportunities focused on jobs and prevention.”
In addition, Mayor Bowser discussed changes with the 911 emergency services system.
“This is important for college students and high school students to know here,” said Bowser. “We have a problem with people calling 911 who don’t need an ambulance or go to ER. We devised programs to offer programs in neighborhoods and give the right source of transportation to get there. We will do that by adding a nurse triage line to connect people to the resources that they need.”
In the student panel, students asked questions discussing the direct impact of the budget on D.C.’s public school system, the possibility of D.C. becoming a state, and D.C. public safety.
In response to a question related to the themes of the 2018 budget, Mayor Bowser expressed her goals to increase employment and prosperity in the District.
“This budget is focused on how to get more Washingtonians experiencing the prosperity that we’re experiencing now in Washington, D.C.,” said Mayor Bowser. “I’m proud of the fact that in two years we have seen as a result of many of our investments and hard work, unemployment go down in the District by almost 2%. What’s more significant is that we have seen those numbers go down in the wards that were experiencing the most unemployment.”
A student journalist from George Washington University asked a question related to the possibility of D.C. statehood. Mayor Bowser expressed her commitment to making D.C. a state.
“I am insulted by having to pay taxes when I don’t have a single vote in the Congress and that’s why I’m focused on statehood,” said Bowser. “It doesn’t matter who’s in the White House or who’s in Congress. It’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s a justice issue.”
Student journalists from multiple Washington, D.C. public schools attended the roundtable event. The panel offered students an opportunity to ask questions about the public school system.
“I think it was beneficial to hear other peoples’ questions and hearing what the Mayor’s thoughts are on issues that issues I would not have thought about researching myself,” said junior Alicia Chopari from the School Without Walls, a public D.C. magnet school in Foggy Bottom.
As the second round table event, student journalists appreciated the opportunity to directly voice their concerns to the Mayor on issues that impact both D.C. colleges and the public school system.