Graduation Motivation

IMG_0561Hoping it will motivate at-risk youth to stay in school, the Board of Supervisors is offering $500 to children of welfare recipients – if they earn a high school diploma or GED, and take a course in financial literacy.

The Board unanimously approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl authorizing the County’s Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) to implement an Educational Support Payment (ESP) pilot program.

“We are always supportive of innovative ideas to motivate young people to complete their high school education so that they are better prepared to enter the workforce or matriculate at institutions of higher education,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “The ESP pilot program is an example of outside-the-box thinking when it comes to raising graduation rates among economically disadvantaged young people.”

DPSS administers the State’s CalWORKs welfare program, which gives cash aid and services to some of the County’s most vulnerable families. Only half of adults receiving CalWORKs benefits have a high school diploma or GED. This is a huge barrier to employment, as with more than 85 percent of Americans 25 and older possessing high school diplomas, it has become increasingly difficult for those without diplomas or GEDs to become self-sufficient. The ESP pilot program can help break the cycle of generational poverty and dependency by incentivizing welfare recipients’ children to complete at least their secondary education, which should help them become successful and self-sufficient.

Under the ESP pilot program, 16 to 18-year-old children of CalWORKs participants who graduated from high school or earned a GED in May 2016 and before June 30, 2017 can earn $400 by providing proof of their high school diploma or GED. They can receive an additional $100 by completing a financial literacy course offered through the County’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs.

The motion also required that surveys be conducted and data be tracked to determine whether offering financial incentives makes a difference in GED/high school graduation rates. The estimated cost for the pilot is $3 million, based on 6,000 teens qualifying for both the $400 graduation payment and the $100 financial literacy class.