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WHY NOT RECALL DEFECTIVE DC STUDENTS?

summary

This NARPAC addition was stimulated by January's huge recall of 728,000 trucks and SUVs for a minor problem which has so far been reported to have impacted on only 63 vehicles, and possibly caused one non-fatal injury. There is a formal federally-legislated procedure obliging manufacturers to report such mechanical defects, and make good on the repairs. These consumer- protection laws are taken seriously, even though a) most of the effected vehicles are seldom around for more than a decade, and b) annual follow-on models certainly eliminate these problems as soon as they are identified to save costs and both corporate and national reputation.

Shortly thereafter in February, 2005, the US Supreme Court handed down an important decision intended to limit the proliferation of frivolous class action suits. It requires them to be filed only in Federal courts rather than lower courts. The Justices clearly recognized, however, that class action suits are still appropriate when/where circumstances are sufficiently egregious.

NARPAC has often noted over the past six years that no similar procedures exist for recalling and "repairing" failed students even though their impact on the American society and economy is enormous and certainly egregious. Such human "products" a) are around for six more decades; b) do inestimable damage (often lethal) to themselves, their cohorts and their communities; c), very frequently perpetuate their failures through their disadvantaged progeny; and d) compromise their local, regional, and national image.

In order to bring home this failure of the American public education system, NARPAC has prepared this section in three parts: first, a purely imaginary one-page "class action suit" that should be filed in the local federal district court, along with some sample supporting data; second, an equally imaginary "educational deficit report" which follows the outline of documentation required by the Federal Highway Transportation Safety Administration (FHTSA); and finally, a preliminary design for a "recycling center" for teen mom dropouts, adult poor, and some homeless. Such units would be located on existing school properties, paid for primarily by the sale of surplus school property and the proceeds of "dirt rights"(underground) parking facilities, and at least partially staffed by volunteers from the affordable housing units included. It may well not be the final solution, but like President Bush's social security privatization initiative, it will serve its purpose if it becomes the first step in resolving a major long-term American problem. There is no more fundamental American problem than breaking the cycle of urban poverty.

return to the top of the page Imaginary Class Action Suit

NARPAC has no resident lawyer on its staff, and the following imitation class action suit is a figment of our imagination:

Class Action Lawsuit
Concerned Citizens of the United States of America
vs
the United States Government and the Government of the District of Columbia


We, to include: the many threatened and deprived residents of the District of Columbia (hereafter referred to as DC); the many affected citizens throughout the Greater Washington Metro Area; and the many concerned Americans across the United States; (hereafter collectively referred to as the Aggrieved), jointly and in mutual agreement, hereby collectively accuse the Congress of the United States of failing in its DC oversight role, and the DC Government, including the legislative and executive branches and the DC School Board (hereafter collectively referred to as the Local Government) of failing to properly and adequately carry out the direct and implied obligations of the Home Rule Act of 1973 to govern the nation's capital city in a fashion to satisfy: the minimal safety and quality of life deserved by DC residents; the expectations of invested metro area residents for their central city; and/or the pride of all Americans in one of their primary national symbols. We, the Aggrieved, find that the societal fabric of our capital city simply and obviously does not meet American standards.

Whereas the DC, a city of some 550,000 residents, was granted home rule some 30 years ago; whereas some 80,000 still live in poverty; whereas the life expectancy of DC residents is still almost nine years below the American norm; whereas some 30,000 still have less than a 9th Grade education and 55,000 more lack a high school diploma; whereas some 25,000 kids have been born to teen-aged unwed moms, as many as 10,000 to kids below the age of 17; whereas some 30,000 boys have dropped out of school and 30% have been, or still are, involved in the criminal justice system; whereas some 7,000 have been killed, mostly by other young DC residents; whereas the school system has wasted as much as $700 million on surplus school properties; whereas both the Local and Federal governments deny the city needed revenues by supporting practices and policies which perpetuate thousands of scarce and fixed acres of relatively undeveloped land; whereas the Local and Federal Governments together have spent $6 billion maintaining those in need but surely less than $60 million on decreasing their dependency on public subsidies by equipping them for employment, or even parenthood; and whereas the core city now attracts 40% of the metro area's poor, with only 12% of the taxable wealth to sustain them; we the Aggrieved find both the Federal Government and the District of Columbia Government derelict in their duties to their citizens and residents.

We, the aforementioned Aggrieved, do therefore petition the Federal Government to require and assure that the Local Government, in obligatory conjunction with its jurisdictional partners in the metro area, redirect its priorities and resources towards alleviating and redressing the lifelong disadvantages accruing to DC residents who have not been provided an education sufficient to a) enable their pursuit of an independent and law-abiding American lifestyle, or b) to avoid imposing on their progeny a similar fate. We envision a systemic change which produces a better and more effective education for DC's children coupled with a "recycling" program to recall and repair the deficiencies afflicting those presently condemned to highly visible lives unbefitting any Americans. In consideration of DC's limited revenues and resources, we further petition Federal Authorities to compensate DC indirectly for these mandatory expenditures through greater assistance in meeting the unique capital investment needs of our national capital city and metro area.

supporting data

This web site has hundreds of references to problems in DC caused by inadequate education. Below are five additions to the collection, based on recently available information:

A recent Washington Post article (1/13/05) suggested that DC health statistics lag substantially behind those of most states, but look better among cities, according to the latest ('03) "Big Cities Health Inventory". This report is available online and NARPAC has produced the possibly confusing summary chart below. It ranks the various health indicators with DC's worst measure first when compared to other cites (brown bars) and to the entire US average (blue bars). It shows that DC has about 3.4 times as many AIDS cases as the average of Big Cities, and about 7.8 times as many as the US average. At the other end of the spectrum, DC has about 3.8 times fewer moms that smoke compared to the Big City Average, 4.7 times fewer than the national average. The only other indicators which put DC measurably ahead of the city pack are suicides, fertility rates, automobile fatalities, and lung cancer. In fact, the nation's capital city does not look good compared to the average big US city:

The next chart pair compares the distribution of DC's poor by age group, compared to the surrounding jurisdictions of the "Inner Metro Area". According to the left hand chart, DC's poor are well distributed amongst all age groups, with greater numbers among kids and retired people than several of the other jurisdictions. The more illuminating chart is to the right, showing that DC has two to four times as many people in poverty in each of the age groups as any of its neighboring suburbs. These poverty levels are directly and incontrovertibly related to lack of public education.

The third charts continue the analysis of DC's high poverty rates in every age group. The left hand chart shows that although DC has only 16% of the inner metro area's population, it has almost 40% of all the region's poor: almost 2.5 times its "share". But the more informative chart is again to the right. It demonstrates the importance of the ratio between those who require welfare assistance, compared to those of a working age capable of providing tax revenues to support the needy. As the numerator shrinks, the denominator grows making the ratio drop more rapidly. Hence DC ends up with only 4 potential taxpayers (earners) per person in poverty, while its suburbs end up with anywhere from 10 to 20 taxpayers per recipient. Again, a strong educational deficit is to blame, and there is no way that the city's financial structure can match that if its better educated suburbs.

The next chart shows how the total number of "temporary assistance to needy families (TANF)" recipients varying across the fifty states, DC, and the other three "territories". In fact DC, has more TANF families than twenty-one states (plus Guam and the Virgin Islands). Surely these figures cannot be worn as a badge of pride for the national capital city.

Finally, it is instructive to look at how DC's "educational deficit" reflects on the demographic mix by gender among the age groups. Although the overall racial mix in DC (according to the 2000 Census) was still 60% black (but still slowly declining), black males (and would-be fathers) are significantly below 50% of all DC males (yellow background) in the age groups between 20 and 35. Many of the missing males are incarcerated or the victims of major crimes. In fact, after the age of 14, black males drop almost continuously relative to black females, and again from the age of 50 on, black males are not a majority of their age group. In these latter years, it is the poor health, and consequent low life expectancy that takes its premature toll on the oversimplified racial balance. It also tends to support the frequent observation that the black community is basically a matriarchal society.

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The Routine, Regulated, Process of Recalling Vehicles

On January 27, 2005, the Director of the Ford Motor Company Automobile Safety Office within its Environmental and Safety Engineering Department, wrote a one-page letter (with a two-page attachment) to the Associate Administrator for Safety Assurance of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announcing their "voluntary" safety recall action on "approximately 738,490 trucks and SUVs", most of them the popular F150 pick-up truck shown to the right. Note that it comes in response to inquiries from the NHTSA. According to the Defect Information Report (attached to the summary below), Ford has identified 63 possibly relevant vehicle fires, and "one alleged injury" out of three-quarters of a million vehicles manufactured! Here is the obligatory notification to the NHTSA:

C O P Y

Ford Motor Car Company

January 27, 2005

Associate Administrator for Safety Assurance
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590

Subject: Ford Recall No. 05S28 Certain 2000 Model Year Ford F-150, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator Vehicles and Certain Model Year 2001 F-150 Supercrew Vehicles Speed Control Deactivation Switch

Summary

o Ford Action: Ford is conducting a voluntary safety recall involving certain 2000 model year Ford F-150, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigation vehicles equipped with speed contol and certain 2001 model year F-150 Supercrew vehicles built through August 7, 2000. Through our ongoing investigation in response to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) information request on the subject vehicles, we have identified an increasing number of reports on 2000 model year F-150s and Expeditions that allege fires related to the speed control deactivation switch performance. As a result, we feel it is in the best interest of customer safety that we take this action.

Number of Vehicles: Approximately 738,490 vehicles in the United States and the Federalized Territories.

Effect on Vehicle Operation: The speed control deactivation switch may, under certain conditions, overheat, smoke and burn.

Service Procedure: Initially, as an interim repair, owners will be instructed to return their vehicles to their dealers to have the speed control deactivation switch disconnected. As soon as replacement parts are available (expected early April, 2005) owners will be instructed to return to the dealers for installation of a new switch.

Attached is the detailed information required by the applicable portions of 49 CFR Part 573 Defect and Non-Compliance Information Report.

(Not reproduced here, but includes 12 headings: potentially affected vehicles [including involved assembly plants]; estimated population of vehicles potentially affected; estimated percentage of affected vehicles with the defect condition; description of the defect; chronology of events; service program; press statement and dealer/owner letters; recall number; and ending date for reimbursement eligibility. These form the framework for the draft information report prepared by NARPAC below.)

C O P Y


Why Not Establish an Obligatory Recall Program for Deficient Students?

Using the NHTSA reporting system as a model NARPAC has conjured up a similar deficiency report for DC's unsuccessfully educated kids over the past 30 years. Compared to the confirmed damage done by 738,490 Ford vehicles, which have an average useful life about10% as long as American people, the damage done by disadvantaged humans is far more serious. The reader is warned that the statistics included below are all rough approximations, and is encouraged to improve on this hypothetical draft:

D R A F T


45CFR678* Educational Deficit Information Report DC00E01
Certain DC Resident Adults and Other Parents Inadequately Educated by the
District of Columbia Public School System

From:

Director, Office of Education Deficit Remediation (OEDR)*
District of Columbia Public Schools
825 North Capitol Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002

To:

Administrator, Education Deficit Remediation Agency*
US Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20202

(* currently, of course, non-existant)

678.9(c)(2) potentially affected DC residents;

Any of the students that have passed through DC's public schools may have developed some variation of the debilitating deficiency. Most of them will have spent some time in one of DC's senior high schools listed below between 1975 and 2005:

    Anacostia Senior High School
    Ballou Senior High School
    Bannecker Senior High School
    Bell Multicultural Senior High School
    Cardozo Senior High School
    Coolidge Senior High School
    Dunbar Senior High School
    Eastern Senior High School
    Ellington School of the Arts
    McKinley Technology Senior High School
    Moore Academy
    Roosevelt Senior High School
    School Without Walls
    Spingarn Senior High School
    M. M. Washington Senior High School
    Woodrow Wilson Senior High School
    H.D. Woodson Senior High School

678.9(c)(2) estimated population of DC Residents potentially affected;

On the order of 150,000 to 200,000 kids have attended DCPS since 1975.

678.9(c)(2) estimated percentage of potentially affected DC Residents with the defect condition;

As many as 30% of the above students (45,000 to 60,000) may have some level of significant deficiency.

678.9(c)(2) description of the defect and its impact;

The primary observed defect is the failure to achieve a minimal functional education and to attain functional literacy. This is known to produce the following long-term, often life-long societal effects: the inability to earn a living above the poverty level; the far greater likelihood of raising kids also unable to break the cycle of poverty; far higher birth rates to unwed teen-aged kids; far higher crime rates among the counter-cultural teen-aged boys; far poorer health among the affected population and their offspring; far less stable and nurturing family households; gradual and often irreversible neighborhood decline and blight in the areas where the affected population tends to cluster; far lower home ownership rates with an attendant fear of capitalism; far less capacity for daily mobility in quest of preferred jobs; far less desire or capacity for mobility towards higher quality of life elsewhere; neighborhood and classroom conditions that drive away the more capable, independent households; a demagogic political structure pandering to the poor and blaming their plight on others beyond their control; a strong tendency to corrupt the American capitalistic democracy into a socialistic welfare state; local operating budgets disproportionately focused on ministering to the disadvantaged; higher taxes and fewer city services to those city residents that are contributing to the city's common good; less funding available for essential capital investment; lower consequent economic growth and infrastructure modernization rates; an inferior reputation and quality of life compared to other relevant jurisdictions within the metro area and other American cities; and significant damage to the image of the American national capital city.

678.9(c)(2) chronology of events;

There has been a slow but steady decline in the educational effectiveness of DC public schools ever since the well-intended, but poorly implemented, desegregation of the DC Public School System, and the advent of a somewhat reactionary home rule government anxious to provide better jobs and opportunities for less experienced residents. The first elected mayor for the city of Washington DC was installed in January of 1975.

It should be noted that 10th Grade drop-outs in 1975 are only now passing the age of 45 and should be at their most productive as parents, community members, and income-earners and taxpayers. And just as obviously, those who drop out of DC's public schools are far more likely than their better educated peers to still be on the public dole in DC in the year 2050. With only 15% of the Inner Metro Area's population, DC is afflicted with over 40% of its individuals in poverty.

678.9(c)(2) service program;

There is no substitute for providing an environment in which various forms of education can be provided to marginally-willing deprived adults, near-adults, and future adults who in large measure feel rejected and abandoned by "the system" in which they are trapped. The most susceptible to remediation are likely to be those who dropped out of high school "by accident" or necessity and are now saddled with dependents and an un-nourishing local environment. These mostly teen-aged moms also have the greatest influence on the "educability" of the next generation of public school kids at high risk of failure. The major element in this proposed citywide effort is to generate a welcoming and productive environment is which selected candidates can help each other escape from an unacceptable quality of life with the help of their communities and schools. For details see the following hypothetical design for a family of "New Hope Group Homes" to be built on existing DCPS school properties.

678.9(c)(2) press statement and dealer/owner letters;

Press statements will be made in the near future, followed by regular updates and progress reports. Letters will be sent to all the effected schools, and to all the Ward-level and ANC-level officials who could nominate candidates (of any age) to take part in the recycling program.

678.9(c)(2) recall number;

DC00E01

678.9(c)(2) ending date for reimbursement eligibility

There is no foreseeable end-date to the requirement for these "recycling centers" because the public school system is inescapably still generating additional kids with a serious education deficit caused by a home environment which the schools cannot be expected to overcome.

D R A F T


return to the top of the page NEW HOPE GROUP HOMES A FANTASY

objectives and assumptions

The purpose of this exercise, which some may find grotesquely insensitive, is to try to visualize a suitably manned, self-perpetuating, physical facility on available underutilized land which is devoted to "recycling" human beings who, regardless of the reason, have slipped (or are destined to slip), into an inextricable cycle of poverty right here in the USA. This approach is predicated on the basic assumption that the debilitating "cycle of poverty" cannot be broken by trying to offset family failures in the lower grade classrooms. NARPAC believes that it is the adults that must be inspired to make a better world for themselves and their very young kids.

The "recyclable" inputs are threefold: 1) the often-unmarried, often-illiterate, often-teen-aged moms (TAMs) and their often-more-than-one small offspring; 2) individual grown-up poor (GUPs), often the elderly who have fallen into, or often never left, debilitating poverty, sometimes the working poor; and 3) the currently homeless persons (CHPs), sometimes temporarily, more often for keeps.

The proposed facilitators who perform the 'recycling' are 1) a handful of caring community individuals and/or charities (where are the black churches in this extensive debacle?) willing to oversee and contribute to the process; 2) a set of working family residents (WFRs), comprising conscientious, two-parent households (with or without their own kids), preferably already employed in city jobs that do not pay enough to provide adequate city housing; 3) a small cadre of (non-emergency) health care providers to operate an on-site health clinic; and 4) the three categories of "input" disadvantaged in the previous paragraph, everyone of whom are capable of helping one another in some valuable way.

The primary intended annual output is a set of one-year older moms with the same number of offspring, who now have all the rudiments of two practical educations: 1) the ability to find work and independence for themselves, and even more important, 2) the competence and confidence to inspire their offspring to educate themselves out of poverty. The secondary outputs are to sufficiently empower a good fraction of the adult poor to find the will and the skill to struggle away from poverty; and to give some fraction of the participating homeless the time, the respite, and the ambition to work themselves off the streets and steam vents. The tertiary outputs will be a set of government workers, be they teachers, cops, or bureaucrats, with a far better understanding of the needs and capabilities of some of the city's most disadvantaged.

facility design fundamentals

The intent of the facility, then, is to put together a modestly-sized 'critical mass' of elements that can generate a successful output at a reasonable net cost, using, to the extent possible, the efforts of the group home residents themselves. We envision that those efforts would be complemented only by a few medically-trained clinical personnel, perhaps on rotation from existing medical organizations, and some kind of charity-based part-time volunteer "house mothers (or fathers)" during hours when the WFRs are otherwise occupied at or away from the home.

We have imposed an additional space constraint consistent with our overall objectives to relate these efforts and facilities to the system that failed them, and that was failed by them: DC's Public School system (DCPS). NARPAC has demonstrated elsewhere that there are far too many DCPS properties, and in many cases far too much property associated with a school. It appears possible to evolve an L-shaped building which can sit on one corner of a school property, with a footprint no more than half of a half-acre lot (FAR=0.5max), and a height which does not overpower the host school building (3-story + attic max). It appears reasonable that the school population itself could provide special assistance for its satellite facility in the form of teachers, special maintenance needs, or even students to provide "buddy" services and/or baby sitting.

In addition, this type of community-based operation could also begin the apparently challenging task of weaning away from scarce hospital emergency rooms the many strapped local residents in need of primary medical care. A recent comment in DC's local "e-mail discussion forum" from an experienced emergency room doctor reflects the opinion of many of his peers, that DC's intention to build a new hospital to replace the now-closed DC General is ill-advised:

"The DC Hospital Association web site reports that on average 25% of acute care hospital beds are unfilled each day. Virtually all morbidity and mortality in the District result from hypertension, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other diseases that are best handled by primary care facilities, not by emergency rooms and not by acute care facilities (and I say this as an emergency room doctor). If our elected officials would focus on people's health care needs instead of their own political health, no doubt they would come up with a better use of $100 million than building another hospital in DC."

The longstanding tradition of DC's disadvantaged residents to use emergency rooms as virtually their only source of medical care will clearly be difficult to break (particularly if they are not educated from a young age as to the alternatives). The root causes are doubtless a combination of familiarity, ignorance of regular medical procedures, convenience, lack of insurance, and last but by no means least free transportation. This last practicality is yet another potential service that might be provided by residents of this new community facility.

NARPAC also believes strongly in the multiple use of scarce properties to generate more (or just some positive) revenues. While others think in terms of 'air rights' (putting one building above another), we often think in terms of 'dirt rights' (putting a second use under the primary use). In this fantasy design, then, we hide a major half-acre off-street parking garage beneath the group home. For security reasons, it could well have no direct access at all to the building above. However, it would use contemporary parking technology which can substantially increase the number of vehicles per unit of space. In addition (hopefully) to increasing generated revenues, it could provide skill training for the participating unemployed (GUPs and CHPs) so they could gain employment in similar garages eventually to be used more broadly throughout metro areas.

Here then, are the floor space allocations carefully divined from the ceiling as an opening gambit. Readers should feel not only free but obliged to improve on them:

Teen-aged Moms (TAMs) and their Offspring:

The young women chosen for this 'recycling', often tripped up in their attempts to grow up, are the primary target for concentrated catch-up education, both for their entry into the workplace and in their pursuit of motherhood. We guessed that 16 would be a reasonable (even) maximum to teach in one class, and would also provide a stimulating smaller number for interactive learning in two separate classes. Two small separated living rooms (400 sqft each) would be provided, one near the apartments, the other near the classrooms, and the permanent residents as well.

Many of these TAMs have tripped up more than once. We envision accommodating up to 24 young (mainly pre-school) kids. The youngest would sleep in their mother's individual 400 sqft o"studio apartments". The somewhat older ones would share the youthful comradery of "bunk rooms" (800 sqft each for boys and girls). There would be a common 700 sqft indoor "playroom", adjacent to a 200 sqft "nurse's room" (where guidance could also be provided for the range of welfare issues). Monitoring the bunk rooms and playroom would be a shared responsibility of the TAMs.

Working Family Residents (WFRs)

NARPAC opined that about twelve fully responsible adults should live in this size of group home. If each adult offers four scheduled hours of guidance to their wards per week, that can generate 48-hours of classroom (or other instruction) time per 6-day week, or a full 8 hours per day. These families have 1200 (4) or 1000 (2) sqft "suites" for themselves and their (assumed) 1-2 kids each. Their kids are assumed to be uninvolved in the group home activities, though one can easily imagine otherwise. These (presumably older) kids might attend the adjunct school and could provide powerful role models from such 'regular' American families. The six working families would have access to a common 900 sqft third-floor deck

Other Poor (GUPs and CHPs)

With no particularly binding rationale, NARPAC felt that it would be appropriate to provide ground-floor "efficiency" apartments for 8 single adults (well) below the poverty line. We wanted enough to form one or two congenial social groups (amongst themselves), but not so many that they could outweigh the inputs of the responsible WFRs. For those GUPs that need help in reading or other occupational skill development, they would be treated much like the TAMs where possible. On-the-job training would also be highly desirable if properly supervised. Managing the parking garage presents one opportunity. Helping in the kids' or community clinics, cooking and staffing the on-site convenience store are others (see below).

It is further assumed, however, that each of these probably lonely souls will participate in the guidance and development of the TAMs and their offspring. We are in essence suggesting the equivalent of one substitute(???) (grand?)parent for each two TAMs, and one (great?)grandparent per three offspring. We would assume that these persons will participate as much as 20 hours per week in group home activities (including chores), and offering all important exposure to the wisdom of one's elders (including their views on poverty, and how to avoid it!).

With equally little formal logic, NARPAC felt these homes should include (controlled) exposure to the homeless. Call them anti-role models if you wish: the living proof of just how bad things can get, and for perfectly ordinary people at that. Like displaying for teen-aged kids those lethally crumpled wrecks caused by car accidents, or black lungs preserved in jars for would-be smokers. The CHPs would be selected for both their desperate poverty and their mental normalcy. It would be particularly valuable if some of them consider themselves only temporarily homeless, and could contribute to various instructions from reading to comportment. We picked separate bunk rooms and common bathrooms (perhaps only one gender at one group home) for a total of ten, isolated from the rest of the home and with a separate entrance. We believe that this will be enough for the GUPs to help tend, in addition to their obligations to the TAMs.

The primitive "artist's rendering" below is intended to provide some sense of the size and configuration of typical group home. These units would be constructed on a corner of several current public school properties designated to remain in a properly down-sized DC school system. They would be built atop underground parking garages to provide a source of income and possible on-the-job training. The top (third) floor would be devoted to "affordable" apartments for city workers and classrooms; the second floor to "efficiency apartments" for teen-aged moms and their young kids; and the ground floor would provide austere quarters for single poor adults and the homeless, plus the other amenities described below:


Other Group Home Amenities

classrooms:

The most basic objective of these centers would be to provide opportunities to learn those fundamentals required for full entry into the American socioeconomic milieu. We chose to locate two very ample (600 sqft) classrooms (separated from the TAM living quarters with all their distractions, including their kids!) on the third floor near the adult affordable housing units. We suggest a third classroom of the same size on the ground floor which would be configured differently (more maturely?) to be used primarily for adult education of the GUPs and CHPs.

"concierge" space:

Three other facilities are included on the ground floor. The smallest and simplest would be a small office near the front door for a respected community representative who can serve as a part-time counselor or confessional; the minister of a local church; the "house mother" of a college dorm; the concierge of a small hotel; and/or the bouncer at the local club. Surely there is a need to keep these diverse groups respectful of one another. It could also be an opportunity for "on the job training" (OJT) for any of the three groups being helped. Finally, it might be an opportunity to bring the much vaunted local churches, their pastors, and their lay leaders into the relief of real- world misery.

convenience store:

Second, we included a convenience store, not only for its convenience, but for its potential value as a teaching tool in the rudimentary fundamentals of retail trade: from inventory control and pricing, to customer relations and responsibility. It would be intended to serve the local community well beyond its own walls, and actually become a source of some revenues to the home. Properly encouraged, many of the staples it sells might be contributed from larger businesses in the city, from Peoples and CVS to Giant and FreshFields. We guessed at a 400 sqft area, not unlike some of the smaller stores springing up at gas stations.

cafeteria:

Finally, NARPAC has included a substantial 900 sqft kitchen/cafeteria arrangement where any of the participants in the home, including the homeless, might find reasonably priced cafeteria-style meals (tending more to home-made, food stamp-compatible, family fare than fast-food menu). The operating of this significant facility would be a joint responsibility somehow shared by agreement of all the factions active in the Group Home. GUPs may be cooking, CHPs may be washing up (in return for dood), TAMs may be learning how to prepare meals and/or wait tables. It is on the one hand, a group home necessity, and on the other hand, another business opportunity. If they get good enough at it, they might be able to attract the larger nearby community, possibly even satisfying some of the eating-out desires of the adjacent neighborhoods, as well as school kids and faculty.

We also assume that this facility might well serve the "take-out" needs of the various residents. WFRs, TAMs, and GUPs would all have some level of kitchen facilities in their own quarters, and certainly the ability to keep and reheat pre-prepared meals. The common cafeteria might well prepare portions for resident consumption at other times, thereby limiting both the selection and the possible waste from too broad a menu with too uncertain a clientele.

clinic:

NARPAC has very little foundation for estimating the floor space needed for a community primary care medical clinic, but takes a wild guess at three clinician spaces, one nurse's station, and a waiting area, each at 200 sqft. for a total of 1000 sqft. Separate off-campus access would be provided. Obviously, it could also provide an excellent opportunity for OJT.

adjunct school facilities:

It would obviously be desirable to enlist the support and assistance of the real public school on a corner of whose land this "recycle center" now sits. Properly encouraged but not overwhelmed, the real school, with roughly 100 times the "student" population, should be able to provide part time teaching, counseling, coaching help, to say nothing of minor maintenance assistance, or even some on-site entertainment and sports functions. And the smaller adult facility may be able to return some of the favors in kind: classroom or cafeteria assistants, or the constant reminder of the anti-role model.

The two annotated aerial photos below show the approximate size of the proposed group home compared to the size of two school properties eminently qualified to host group homes: Paul Charter Junior High (left) and Wilson Senior High (right). Note that each school is within a block or two of a major intersection and/or metro station. Center left of Paul School is the intersection of Military Road, Georgia Avenue and Missouri Avenue, just beginning to enjoy redevelopment. Center left of Wilson High is the intersection of River Road and Wisconsin Avenue and the Tenleytown metro station where the neighborhood is gradually accepting moderately higher transit-oriented development.

schematic design:

Allowing others to design corridors, stairwells, closets, etc, this preliminary doodle requires about 9500 sqft on each of three floors, with significant separation between the four resident groups. The second floor is entirely devoted to the TAMs and their kids. The working families take most of the third floor, plus the classrooms for the TAMs, and one communal space where the TAMs and WFRs might interact. The ground floor is devoted to the poor and homeless, plus one classroom, and common facilities such as clinic, kitchen/cafeteria, and convenience store. There is expected to be no direct access between any of the four groups to one another, except through outside entrances or common areas. Our fantasy allows some 15% of total available floor space for hallways, etc.

The diagram below shows a rough allocation of floor space for each of the three floors:

Initial and Operating Cost Estimates

These "recycling centers" co-located on half-acre lots on the edges of current school properties, would not, of course, be without costs. And it is part of NARPAC's fantasy that these costs would be remarkably reasonable in both net capital investment costs and net operating costs.

On the Initial (Capital) Investment Side:

NARPAC estimates that a 32,000 sqft modest residential building, complete with an automated garage for 250 cars can be constructed and equipped for between $8 and $10M without any special contributions or offsets from local businesses. Since each center is designed to house six affordable housing units, it seems quite likely that some kind of offsets might be forthcoming.

NARPAC also estimates that there are probably two dozen too many school properties in DC for its still falling enrollment projections. If they average a 250,000 sqft building on four acres, NARPAC also estimates that it should be possible to sell off the average surplus school property for $10-14M to commercial developers.

We therefore conclude that up to two dozen such centers can be built and equipped from the sales of currently surplus schools: a very significant conclusion which certainly deserves further expert verification. If true, it makes possible to undertaken the operation without substantial debt servicing requirements.

On the Operating Costs Side:

A fully occupied operational center would include 6 affordable family households whose subsidized rental payments should certainly be sufficient to provide full maintenance for those efficiency units, and perhaps the costs of utilities for the entire building. Remember that some minor rent reductions would be offered to those householders willing to take on part of the supervisory/educational roles for the primary residents in learning.

The 16 teen moms with their 24 offspring would not, of course, be expected to pay their way, though certainly some fraction of their various welfare payments, including food stamps could be pooled for the benefit of the entire group. It is likewise assumed that these teen moms would take turns at various home chores from cleaning group common quarters and classrooms, to cooking common meals.

The 8 proposed single adults in poverty would also be expected to contribute effort and some of their welfare benefits in return for a home and the opportunity to improve their chances for leading independent lives. They would be expected to help the teen moms in certain of their chores and benefit from the OJT opportunities in convenience store, cafeteria, clinic, and car garage.

The 10 homeless would provide little if any assistance in cash or in kind. Some, however, may well be able to provide chores around the home, and certainly provide advice on how best to avoid their current circumstances. It is by no means inconceivable that some members of this cohort could provide teaching services, if only from the school of hard knocks!

NARPAC has virtually no expertise in assigning values to Food Stamp or TANF benefit payments, but guesses that the 18 single-person households could receive food stamps worth $120 each, the 16 2-person households in poverty might bring $240, and the 8 3-person households might bring $360. Equivalent TANF payments might at best double those, bringing the total applicable welfare payments to some $17,500 per month for 42 poor adults with 24 young kids. With the economies of preparing common meals, these welfare payments might well provide all food and other sundries associated with group home living and bulk buying from discount stores.

The largest potential costs would be in providing professional teaching, counseling, and supervision services. This could involve (a wild guess of) a maximum of six full-time employees earning perhaps $40-50,000 annually for some 12,000 hours of work. How much of that could be obtained from volunteer services is by now means assured. Four hours per week from the 12 third floor residents would be helpful (2400). Eight hours a week from half the 18 single adults in the home could bring in another 3600 hours, making up half the needed hours.

How much time could be volunteered from the staff of the adjunct public school? How much time might be offered by community volunteers arranged by local churches, or even local ANC groups? How much time might be donated from DC businesses looking for properly trained entry- level employees? How much time might be volunteered by local and federal government employees? With sufficient community involvement, and/or the support of sponsoring city council members, it should be possible to generate several additional man years. The major problem, however, would be to find one full-time accountable leader for each home that accepts responsibility for the proper and continuous operation of the group home. Ideally, that person would probably be on the payroll of the adjunct school.

Based on the foregoing, NARPAC thinks that it might be possible to staff a group home for as little as, say, $100-200,000 per year. Not a bad price if the desired annual "output" can be achieved.

NARPAC has suggested that there might be several sources of income. Some of the adults might be provided with limited part-time jobs paying near the minimum wage. Such income would be quite limited, and should probably be kept by the residents for small sundries. The convenience store and the cafeteria might sell their products to the neighborhood, and perhaps generate a net profit of a few thousand dollars a year.

The only major income producer would be the underground parking lot, assumed to hold a maximum of 250 vehicles, and assumed to be near some center of activity warranting such an off- street parking facility. Estimating the parking usage at 150 cars for each of 300 days yields 45,000 parkers. Guessing at an average daily rate of $10, of which half might be applied to group home costs, income from parking could well exceed $200,000 per year. This seems to be of the same order of magnitude as the funding needed for a few paid employees.

In short, to a very crude first approximation, then, NARPAC concludes that a) the proceeds from selling existing surplus school properties could well cover the initial investment costs of perhaps two dozen group homes, and b) the operating costs of a satellite facility on existing school properties might well be covered by a combination of attached welfare payments, the rental from affordable housing units, and the proceeds from the underground garage. Surely these 'guestimates' are not an adequate basis for kicking off a major program. But they might well justify a closer look by properly skilled organizations.

NOTE: Additional analysis on this key subject is contained in NARPAC's 2005 summary and commentary on DC's latest DCPS Strategic Plan

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This page was updated on Jun 5, 2005



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