Testimony of Kimberly Perry, Executive Director before the Committee of the Whole 06-03-21

June 3, 2021
Person Testifying: Kimberly Perry
Title: Executive Director, DC Action
Testimony Heard By: Committee of the Whole
Type of Hearing: Budget Hearing on Education Public Witnesses

I’m Kimberly Perry, Executive Director of DC Action. Through data, policy-advocacy, a racial equity lens, and powerful coalitions for kids, we’re making the District of Columbia a place where all our children and youth grow up safe, resilient, powerful and heard.

Mayor Bowser’s proposed FY22 budget is a testament to the significance of the Biden administration’s investments in children, youth, and their families through the American Rescue Plan and other robust federal relief. The nearly $3 billion in federal funding will close the anticipated budget gaps and avoid what might have been devastating cuts to critical city programs and services. We are pleased to see Mayor Bowser deepen commitments to affordable housing, public school financing, and mental health services for the next few years.

My concern here is that we’re not using this opportunity to address long-standing inequities resulting from the legacy of racial discrimination and intentional underinvestment in Black and brown communities. The District has the chance to start righting these wrongs by dedicating funds to the programs and services that we know can transform our children’s lives and communities for generations to come. The federal funding from the Biden administration is vital and appreciated. But we can’t expect that kind of funding to rescue us every year.

Let’s start with Early Education. There is no reason we can’t begin increasing compensation for early educators today. Many of our early educators, primarily women and professionals of color, work consistently throughout the pandemic even when it is not financially advantageous to do so. They love our children and families, understand the importance of consistency in young children’s lives, and are a lifeline to families dealing with trauma, loss, and economic uncertainty.  How dare we sit comfortably knowing they are earning less than a livable wage. They must be compensated based on their credentials and experience. We are the District of Columbia and we can and must do better. It is not out of reach to add $60m in local recurring funding to the budget to begin addressing fair and equitable compensation for the educators responsible for our youngest residents.

I want to make a similar point for the other end of the education continuum. We applaud the allocation of $3.3 in federal funds for the next two years to help address student learning loss through out-of-school time programs– who we know provide quality social-emotional, cultural, and academic enrichment to our students. But, we must act now to make investments in our local budget to adequately fund out-of-school time programs at $18m and comply with the Nonprofit Fair Compensation Act so programs can continue scaling their reach to our young people who need it the most.

Let’s use these federal funds to propel us forward toward our goals for our children and youth, instead of cause for complacency.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today and I look forward to answering any questions about these funding priorities at your convenience.