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Bowser plans rapid-fire policy plans for ‘pathways to the middle class’

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser chats with chief of staff John Falcicchio, left, and deputy chief of staff Lindsey Parker, back middle, as they walk through the John A. Wilson Building on March 20 in D.C. (Amanda Voisard/For the Washington Post)

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on Monday announced a plan to raise standards for early education centers across the District, saying the city needs to do more to make sure toddlers receive quality instruction to better prepare them for pre­kindergarten.

The announcement launched what aides to the mayor said would be a week-long series of rapid-fire policy announcements as Bowser tries to create momentum heading into her first citywide address and budget release, scheduled for next week.

The offensive follows almost three months in which the city's new mayor found herself responding to incidents as much as setting the agenda. Repeated snowstorms, a fatal Metro electrical malfunction and a showdown with House Republicans over a voter-approved initiative to legalize marijuana dominated her early weeks as mayor, when Bowser was still working to install most members of her cabinet.

If Bowser has her way, the next week will be different. She has scheduled events each day focusing on a theme of “Pathways to the Middle Class,” a likely preview of the message in her first State of the District speech, scheduled for March 31.

Bowser began the rollout Monday with the sweeping promise to improve child care across the District, in both neighborhood and home-based facilities. She said the program could become a national model for early-education programs for young children up to age 3.

The announcement follows Bowser’s campaign promise not only to make educational improvements across the city but also to make sure such opportunities are available to children of all economic backgrounds.

She said the District had won a competitive $9.5 million federal grant to begin pushing citywide adoption of Early Head Start instruction in both neighborhood and home-based child-care settings.

District education officials said some 400 children in 14 child development centers and another dozen home-care settings could benefit in the first year. Many of the centers are in some of the city’s poorest communities, east of the Anacostia River.

Referring to the early instruction, she said, “when they are finished with that experience, they can reach for being first in their class when they start school.”

Under the program, dubbed the Early Learning Quality Improvement Network, three nonprofit groups that specialize in early education will partner with the city to support and improve instruction at smaller child­-care settings with more limited resources.

Bowser said the system would also create a series of neighborhood “hubs” offering an array of services for young parents and families. The D.C. Department of Human Services, which manages welfare, food stamp and homeless services, as well as the city’s departments of health, behavioral health and health-care finance, will also have presences at the facilities.

Bowser made the announcement Monday at the Frederick Douglass Center, in Southeast Washington, of the United Planning Organization. The other two nonprofit organizations partnering in the project are CentroNía and Mary’s Center.

On Tuesday, Bowser planned to follow with a second education announcement. She scheduled a morning news conference at the new Brookland Middle School in Northeast to tout plans for expanding summer school programs, international travel opportunities and bigger city investments in extracurricular activities and athletics.

Announcements on jobs, housing and social safety-net programs will follow, with an expected message that the District can and will work under her administration to help low-income residents better succeed, aides said.

On Tuesday, Bowser will also attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Capitol Gateway Marketplace on East Capitol Street, including a 312-unit apartment building and a Wal-mart Supercenter.

On Wednesday, the mayor will turn to infrastructure investment, beginning the day at the White House to tout the potential for job creation with more spending on repairs. Later in the day, she will launch the city’s annual springtime sprint to fix roadways, known as “Potholepalooza.”

On Thursday, Bowser will speak about the issue of adult foster children, saying the city needs to do a better job helping those who age out of care so that they don’t show up later in the city’s homeless shelters, said her spokesman, Michael Czin.

On Friday, she will focus on jobs for ex-convicts.

The day before her State of the District address, the mayor will also discuss a series of new or revamped requests for proposals to develop key District properties. And, on the day of the address, next Tuesday, the mayor plans an announcement on an initiative to focus city resources on young black men, Czin said.

Bowser’s budget is due two days after, on April 2.