As a collective impact organization composed of 70+ diverse leaders as our backbone staff and 200+ partners across Dallas County and the state of Texas, we represent and cultivate a collaborative educational ecosystem. Our partnership includes school systems, higher education institutions, city, county, and state governments, foundations, non-profits, employers and workforce agencies - all working together to devise, execute, and resource opportunities to weave equity into Dallas County, a region that educates 10% of Texas and 1% of the nation.
Since its inception over nine years ago, data analysis has been at the heart of the Commit Partnership’s work. We want to hold our public systems accountable for achieving positive lifetime outcomes, equitably, for all Texas students. But doing so means we must also hold ourselves accountable using the same information.
When the Commit Partnership began in 2012, our focus was placed primarily on postsecondary credential attainment, aligned to the state’s goal of 60% of Texans ages 25-34 achieving a certificate or degree by 2030. The data from the post-recession job market was clear: over 95% of jobs created in the aftermath went to workers with at least some college education.
Recent research continues to demonstrate the advantage of achieving any kind of postsecondary credential. At the same time, however, analysis of the Dallas job market suggests, for Black and Hispanic/Latinx residents in particular, a degree or certificate may not, on its own, be enough to prosper in the local economy.
Only one in four Dallas County residents aged 25-34 earn a living wage, as determined by the MIT Living Wage Calculator. The opportunity for living wage attainment is even narrower for our Black and Hispanic/Latinx residents. As we continue to disaggregate this data, this story becomes even more troubling.
31% of Black Dallas County residents have earned a college degree. But only 22% of Black Dallas County residents have both a degree and full-time employment. Less than a third of Black Dallas County degree holders earn a living wage. The same is roughly true for Hispanic/Latinx Dallas-ites: just over two-thirds of degree holders work full-time, and only one-third of degree holders earn a living wage.
It’s clear from this data that a postsecondary credential is necessary, but not sufficient, for success in the Dallas County economy, and that eliminating institutional barriers across the workforce pipeline is necessary in order to achieve an inclusive and prosperous region.
That is why the Commit Partnership has re-focused its mission, with a new theory of change, five-year strategy, and true north goal: By 2040, at least half of all 25-34 year old residents, irrespective of race, will be provided the opportunity to earn a living wage.
The core of our work will remain focused on the key academic milestones critical for students to remain on track for economic stability: Pre-K enrollment, 3rd grade reading, college and career readiness upon high school graduation, completion of the postsecondary process, and the additional educational indicators we track on our yearly Dallas County Scorecard. But that Scorecard will now have a final indicator to which we ultimately hold ourselves accountable: living wage attainment.
“This effort is not just the responsibility of the 70 or so people who get up every day to work at Commit, but it is frankly the entire community. The partnership is made up of more than 200 partners, school districts, colleges, higher ed, non-profits, foundations. Everybody who cares about kids and public education and our community. And we are trying to figure this out together because we recognize that this problem that we are attacking is too big for any of us to solve alone. So we are doing it in partnership together.” explains Todd Williams, Chairman and CEO of The Commit Partnership.
In order to fully explain how we hope to collaborate across local education and workforce systems in Dallas County to improve living wage attainment, we have updated our entire website to better reflect our re-defined mission and theory of change. We hope you’ll take some time to explore this next phase of our work, and begin by watching a short video recorded by staff members across the organization: