Budget Hearing Testimony of Kimberly Perry, Executive Director, before the Committee of the Whole

April 5, 2023
Person Testifying: Kimberly Perry
Title: Executive Director, DC Action
Testimony Heard By: Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole
Type of Hearing: Budget Hearing
Topic of Testimony: Budget Oversight Hearing on Education (OSSE)

Good morning, Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole. I’m Kim Perry, executive director of DC Action. DC Action uses research, data, and a racial equity lens to break down barriers that stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential. Our collaborative advocacy campaigns bring the power of young people and all residents to raise their voices to create change. DC Action is the home of DC Kids Count, Under 3 DC, DC Out-of-School Time Coalition, the DC Home Visiting Council and the Youth Economic Justice and Housing Coalition.

As one of the co-chairs of the Under 3 DC coalition and a proud member of the Fair Budget Coalition, my testimony today will focus on early childhood education, while Ryllie Danylko on my team is up next with testimony on the equally important issue of Out-of-School Time.

Our coalition’s response to the Bowser Administration’s budget is a mixed one. We applaud Mayor Bowser for raising income eligibility for the child care subsidy program from 250 percent of poverty to 300 percent of poverty ($90,000 for a family of four). The increase will benefit approximately 2,200 more families with children ages 0-5 and in total up to 4,600 children up to age 13. This expansion allows the current child care subsidy spending to go further. It also advances the Birth-to-Three goal of increasing child care affordability so that ultimately, no District family pays more than 10 percent of their income for child care. We ask the Committee to keep this expansion in the budget.

Unfortunately, we were deeply disappointed to see the Bowser administration cut $5.4 million of the Early Childhood Pay Equity Fund, $9 million of TANF child care funds, and $8 million in ARPA funding for the Back 2 Work child care grants which provide increased reimbursement rates and technical assistance to providers that operate in Wards 7 and 8 with a majority of subsidized slots.

We ask the Committee to prioritize restoration of $5.4 million to the Pay Equity Fund that the Mayor labels as right-sizing. The Mayor claims that these cuts are the result of projections showing there is more funding available in the Pay Equity Fund than what is needed to fully fund the compensation program. But, the permanent program hasn’t even been fully implemented. Two rounds of pay supplements paid directly to early educators have been distributed, but we are still waiting for OSSE to announce the details of the permanent compensation program. Specifically, the Mayor’s cuts to the Pay Equity Fund undermines the District’s priority and ability to expand the fund to early learning program directors for whom credentialing requirements are now in effect, so we must ensure appropriate resources are available to pay directors commensurate with those credentials.

While we’ve made so much progress toward full implementation of the Birth-to-Three law, we still have a long way to go. We are grateful for your consideration of this request and believe it is an essential step toward our mutual goal of building a high quality and equitable early childhood system. Thank you for your time today and I will remain available to answer any questions you might have.

Kimberly Perry, Executive Director, kperry@dckids.org