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Testimony: Incentivize Individual Agency to Achieve Upward Mobility

American Enterprise Institude

January 20, 2022

To Chairman Himes, Ranking member Steil and the distinguished members of the House Select Committee on the Economy, good morning. My name is Ian Rowe.

I submit my testimony today as a proud product of the New York City public school system kindergarten through 12th grade, and a graduate of Brooklyn Tech High School, Cornell University College of Engineering and Harvard Business School. I am the founder and CEO of Vertex Partnership Academies, a new network of character-based, International Baccalaureate high schools, with the first campus to open in the Bronx in 2022. For the past 10 years, I was CEO of a non-profit network of public charter elementary and middle schools in the heart of the South Bronx and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. We educated more than 2,000 students—primarily low-income, black and Hispanic kids. We had nearly 5,000 families on our waiting list.

Many of our parents understand that racial disparities exist, but they know those disparities do not have to be destiny for their kids. These parents were given the power to choose our schools because they wanted their children to develop the skills and habits to become agents of their own uplift and build a better life, even in the face of structural barriers. In District 8 in the South Bronx, of the nearly 2,000 public school students beginning high school in the South Bronx in 2015, only 2 percent graduated ready for college four years later. That means 98 percent of students either dropped out of high school before completing their senior year or they did earn their high school diploma, but still needed remediation in math and reading – if they did go to college.

We cannot ignore that the racial disparities we are seeking to close originated long before they show up for adults as statistical gaps in financial wealth, home ownership or crime. In this district, if only 2% of mostly black and brown kids are graduating from high school capable of doing even basic reading and math, why would we reasonably expect these same kids as adults to be flourishing in higher education and the workplace, starting businesses, getting married, having children within marriage, or any of the other behaviors that typically mark passage into young adulthood and likely entry into the middle class or beyond?

Read the full testimony here.