Leon Sykes has eight children at home, works two jobs, and drives for Uber and Lyft on the side. Yet the 34-year-old father has found time to take classes Monday through Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. to earn his high-school credentials at Academy of Hope, an adult public charter school in Washington, D.C. Sykes is about two years into the program. His wife usually picks up their children, ages 5 to 15, from after-school activities, but he still can’t always make it to class. “Some days, you just have to pick and choose,” he says.
About one in 10 low-income parents participate in education and training courses, according to a 2014 report by the Urban Institute. About half of those parents work while enrolled, creating a need for childcare. The Department of Labor’s Strengthening Working Families Initiative has set aside $25 million to fund partnerships between workforce and childcare organizations to help parents who want to advance their education. For parents who did not graduate from high school, earning a GED can have financial benefits. Adults who hold a GED certificate end up with higher monthly earnings than those who never finished high school.
Working parents often take classes in the evenings but childcare centers generally close before 6 p.m., leaving parents to find informal options, such as asking a family member to come over or dropping a child off with a neighbor. At Academy of Hope, which has two campuses serving a total of about 330 students, 42 percent say they have at least one dependent. Parents can participate in the GED-preparation program or in the college-transition program, where students can earn four college credits that transfer to a local community college. Parents who take classes here can qualify for a voucher for childcare through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, but there are more children than slots. And while the school considered offering childcare, it has decided that it would be too complex and costly.