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

March 28, 2022
Testimony
Person Testifying: Kimberly Perry
Title: Executive Director, DC Action
Testimony Heard By: Committee of the Whole

Good morning Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole. I’m Kimberly Perry, Executive Director of DC Action and Co-Chair of the Under 3 DC coalition. Thank you for your leadership in beginning to substantively fund the District’s landmark Birth-to-Three law, notably, last year creating the Early Educator Equitable Compensation Task Force and pay equity fund. We were pleased to see Mayor Bowser preserve the dedicated funding in her budget proposal as thousands of DC residents and early educators advocated for it and are counting on the transformational changes it will make to ensure we are building the most equitable early childhood education system in the country. We have two recommendations:

  1. Ensure OSSE develops the necessary infrastructure to implement the recommendations of the Task Force to ensure our early education workforce reaches pay and benefits parity with their public school counterparts in FY 2023 and beyond.
  2. Make sure that $53.9 million in the Early Educator Compensation Fund gets into the hands of educators as soon as possible this fiscal year and according to the recommendations of the Task Force. These recommendations include:
  • Minimize loss of public benefits for early educators accessing this years’ pay supplements
  • Conduct extensive outreach to early educators to inform them of pay supplements and help them apply for and understand the impact of the pay supplement on their benefits and taxes
  • Ensure that all communication occurs in teachers’ preferred languages.

I also want to address funding for OST: As a member of the DC OST Coalition, DC Action commends Mayor Bowser for extending the $5 million increase for OST grants by another year with local funds. And for acknowledging the important role that OST programs play in providing safe, nurturing spaces for young people to spend time after school and in the summer.

As the District continues to grapple with how to respond to youth-involved crimes…directing resources toward programs that offer productive expanded learning opportunities for young people is the right approach. We have three recommendations:

  1. Ensure these funds become recurring investments to sustain high-quality, affordable OST opportunities.
  2. We urge the Committee of the Whole to continue to closely oversee the Learn24 Office to ensure the office remains a responsible steward of public funds for OST. The office needs to address ongoing issues with payments, including making sure grantees receive grant funds in a timely manner and that grantees receive a sufficient amount of funds up front. Many programs report late payments from Learn24, which makes it difficult to maintain operations, pay staff, and maintain financial stability. Small organizations without significant amounts of money in reserve struggle the most when they do not receive on-time payments.

Third, and final recommendation, DC Action joins our colleagues at EmpowerEd in advocating for the DC Council to restore funding for Outdoor Learning. Mayor Bowser’s proposed budget defunds outdoor learning after investing $9 million last year. This is misguided and we urge the DC Council to restore this strategic funding. So many in-school and out-of-school programs have developed incredibly successful outdoor programming that students respond well to. When the city leaves schools to pay for outdoor and experiential learning out of their own budgets, we know what happens: students in Black and brown communities get left behind. Dedicated funding for school partnerships is the key to equity.