Testimony of Travis Ballie, Under 3 DC Organizing Director, before the Committee of the Whole

February 28, 2024
Testimony
Person Testifying: Travis Ballie
Title: Under 3 DC Organizing Director, DC Action
Testimony Heard By: Committee of the Whole
Type of Hearing: Oversight Hearing

Good afternoon, Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole,

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council today.  My name is Travis Ballie and I am the Organizing Director with DC Action and a resident of Ward 7. I have the honor of working every day with parents who currently or recently have had children enrolled in early education. I am here today with the hope that the Council can work with OSSE to deal with the real barriers that parents have told me about trying to use their childcare subsidy.

One of the Centers I work with in Ward 8 has a parent whose story is heartbreaking and an example of the real economic setbacks some parents experience while navigating early education. This Center had a parent who desperately wanted to place her child at the home-based early learning center. She was pursuing a promotion at work and had already completed the trainings to obtain it, but first she needed her child enrolled in an early education program. It took five whole months for the parent’s voucher to be approved by the DC Government. That unacceptable and unnecessary wait, along with documentation issues with Department of Human Services, led to her missing out on the promotion.”

These delays hurt families. I hope the Council can ask OSSE how they can prioritize faster processing of childcare subsidy paperwork, so parents can face less uncertainty. That is why I support Under 3 DC, a coalition which is committed to securing a strong start for every infant and toddler in DC. 

This budget year there are real obstacles that risk stunting the growth of infants and toddlers in the District. In late 2023, the Under 3 Coalition was made aware that Mayor Bowser had asked her administration to make major cuts. These cuts will impact all DC Government agencies and could seriously harm programs under the Birth-to-Three law. In particular, these cuts will damage the new Pay Equity Fund, DC’s Subsidy program, and additional resources helping teachers attain their credentials as required by DC law. Any cuts to these programs will severely impact the services and programs provided to all children and families throughout the District. Let us prevent cuts by adopting a tax system for justice, one that asks the wealthiest of our neighbors to pay their fair share, so that basic human services can be met in the District. 

I am proud that the District, through programs like the Pay Equity Fund, have helped increase early educators’ average compensation by as much as 40%. This is beginning to address decades of economic exploitation of the largely Black and brown early educator workforce. We must maintain all funding for the Pay Equity Fund, and also add money in Fiscal Year 25 to ensure we can continue to pay educators as they obtain higher degrees in their profession. 

The Under 3 Coalition is on a path to creating and sustaining a high quality, equitable early childhood system. In order to do that, the Council must ensure no cuts to programs like the Pay Equity Fund and ensure money is added to account for natural cost pressures. Thank you and my full written testimony will be uploaded to the committee portal following the hearing. I would be pleased to answer any questions.