Testimony before the District of Columbia Council Committee on Education June 4, 2020
Kathy Hollowell-Makle, Executive Director
Thank you, Chairman Mendelson, and members of the Committee on Education. My
name is Kathy Hollowell-Makle, and I serve as the Executive Director of the District of Columbia Association for the Education of Young Children, known as DCAEYC. We are a member of the Under 3 DC Coalition. We are a professional membership organization that promotes early childhood learning for all young children from birth to age 8 throughout the District of Columbia by connecting early childhood practice, policy, and research.i I am here today to testify about District child care, and to request both that the District hold young children and their families harmless by increasing the child care subsidy program for FY21, as well as additional emergency funding for child care providers to survive. These steps are essential for early care and education providers to continue to serve the educational needs of our youngest residents and help D.C. parents return to work.
Today, I share findings from the brief D.C. Can’t Have Economic Recovery Without Child
Care Investments, which DCAEYC and the Under 3 DC Coalition released based on two recent surveys we conducted among child care teachers, owners, and directors.ii We found that:
Child care programs were shut out of the COVID-19 relief funding;
Child care shortage is rapidly becoming a crisis during COVID-19;
After the loss in revenue, lack of child care is the most common concern among small business owners amid COVID-19; and
High-quality early learning programs support child development through positive interactions with peers and trained educators. (Children must return to high-quality programs to continue supporting their development, including behavioral and mental health.)
These findings show that the pandemic is forcing nearly all care providers in D.C. into
crisis – from centers, to home-based providers, to providers who participate in the subsidy
program, and to those who rely solely on parent tuition. Without dedicated public funding
support, D.C. may lose more than 6,500 early learning seats (20% of our already too-limited
supply) from COVID-19, limiting access to licensed child care for families with infants and toddlers, which further widens the opportunity gaps for our lowest-income families.iii Before the pandemic, Washington, D.C., already had a child care shortage, with only enough child care seats for one out of every three children under the age of 3.iv
We call on the D.C. Council to prioritize a $10 million enhancement to child care in
the FY21 Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) budget. The child care
field industry, at the heart of a strong District economy, requires this enhancement to preserve their financial viability as they implement pandemic-related public health measures – such as increased staffing and reduced class sizes – to meet safety and social distancing.
DCAEYC represents early childhood professionals – educators and caregivers who
apply principles of child development and family engagement to their interactions. The
pandemic has reinforced the importance of such professionals, and D.C. can help ensure that educators receive fair compensation for their critical work. This FY21 OSSE budget
enhancement for child care subsidies allows providers to move toward a living wage for their
staff in the coming year and keeps D.C. on the right trajectory of improving educator pay and quality care. By investing in early education teachers, we can stabilize the supply of child care and help our economy to rebound.
We call on the Council to allocate at least $10 million in the supplemental budget
for child care. Given the growing threat of child care closures, we are calling for bold
government investments in this essential sector of the District's economy. Without funding, child care providers – especially those who rely solely on parent tuition payments – will struggle to keep their doors open. Small business grants specifically for child care are immediately needed to help cover rent, utilities, insurance, lost wages, and more. D.C. should leverage forthcoming emergency dollars to meet these needs.
As a long-time early childhood educator, I know the short- and long-term impacts of
stress on young children. During this time, I know the pandemic is producing high-stress conditions that affect both parents and children. Given this, we ask that the D.C. Council
ensures there are no budget cuts to physical, mental, and behavioral health support for young children, parents, and educators while families, especially Black and brown families, are experiencing more health challenges and trauma.
We call on the Council to protect existing funding of health programs that serve young children and caregivers, including Healthy Start, Healthy Futures, and Help Me Grow. We support the fully-funded renewal of Home Visiting programs. We know many families rely on essential D.C. government services, such as housing, food access, ending homelessness, paid family leave, and more. One D.C. early childhood education leader said, “Ensuring a strong, quality ECE system will give immediate payoff by getting parents safely back to work and also provide a longer-term payoff through children who thrive socially, emotionally, and cognitively, and who are equipped to be our future leaders.” D.C. must preserve crucial investments in early childhood education and aligned family services to build a thriving recovery. New revenue options must be part of the solution to ensure those who are already suffering the most from the pandemic are not further hurt by severe
budget cuts to critical programs.
I respectfully ask for the D.C. Council to prioritize the educators, providers, young
children, and families across the District by ensuring essential funding for child care providers. Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and I am happy to answer any questions.
i District of Columbia Association for the Education of Young Children. https://www.dcaeyc.org/
ii D.C. Can't Have Economic Recovery Without Child Care Investments (2020) https://www.dcactionforchildren.org/sites/default/files/DC%20Child%20Care%20Investments_May2020.p df
iii Center for American Progress and National Association for the Education of Young Children https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/news/2020/04/24/483817/coronavirus- pandemic-lead-permanent-loss-nearly-4-5-million-child-care-slots/
iv Early Learning Supply and Demand In the District of Columbia (2018) https://bainumfdn.org/wp- content/uploads/2018/10/Bainum_EL-Supply-Demand-Report_FNL_Nov-2018.pdf