Here are 22 promises we must make to the children of the District. If we refuse, we send a message of rejection to a generation heading for oblivion, and we face a future none of us wants.
1. You will not go hungry.
2. You will have a place to live.
3. Every student with a C average or below will attend all-year school.
4. Teachers' status will be elevated.
5. Class size will be reduced to 15 students.
6. Every student will receive all schoolbooks and supplies on the first day of school.
7. Our special-education program will meet national standards in 12 months.
8. Our foster children program will meet national standards in 12 months.
9. Every able child will read by age 9.
10. Every school will have excellent music, art, athletic and nature programs.
11. Classrooms will be places of learning. Disruptive children will have helping programs.
12. Zero tolerance will be given to any threat to any child anywhere in our community.
13. Child care will be available to every at-risk child.
14. Preschool and early childhood programs will be available to every at-risk child.
15. After-school programs will be available to every at-risk child.
16. Every child will have health coverage and be screened before starting school.
17. Every child will have access to a school counselor and a volunteer community mentor.
18. Vacation and all-year part-time jobs will be available to every teenager.
19. Green areas of trees and shrubs will be developed in playgrounds and around buildings.
20. Public schools, parks and libraries will be developed as neighborhood recreation centers.
21. Bus and Metro will be free for all children through high school on school days and Sundays.
22. A program will be created in every school to maximize parent and community involvement.
Too costly? The money question hardly came up when we bombed Iraq. Nor is money an issue when prisoners move out of Lorton. But when 3,000 foster children need to be moved into permanent homes, we don't have the resources.
It's time we stood behind our children. If these 22 promises are made and kept, we must all take responsibility. Every church, every government leader, every business -- everyone -- must help create the moral equivalent of martial law. If we do these things, we'll turn our city around. If we don't, we face a bleak and scary future.
-- Paul Weiss
is a D.C. resident and the father of five.