This testimony was given on Tuesday, May 25, 2021 during OSSE's District of Columbia Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) State Plan Public Hearing
Interim State Superintendent Young, Assistant Superintendent Mead, and the staff of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), thank you for the opportunity to comment on the District’s proposed 2022-2024 Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) state plan. My name is Kathy Hollowell-Makle, and I am the Executive Director of the District of Columbia Association for the Education of Young Children (DCAEYC). DCAEYC advocates on behalf of young children, families, educators, and community organizations to ensure high-quality early learning for all children, birth through age eight.
The revision of the District’s CCDF plan gives the city a unique opportunity to reflect on how well our early care and education (ECE) system meets the needs of working families. As you are aware, the CCDF program has two primary goals. The first is to reduce the costs of high-quality ECE for low-income families. The second is to improve the quality of ECE settings to better support and prepare our youngest children for success in school and in life. Taking stock of the District’s ECE system against these goals is particularly important now, as the city’s ECE educators get back on their feet after a devastating 15 months both financially and emotionally; and as the city looks to ECE educators to support working parents as it fully reopens for business.
Within this context, I would like to offer three recommendations to improve the plan.
First, the plan needs a stronger and more detailed approach to improving the District’s ECE workforce and professional development system to support ECE educators in meeting new minimum education requirements.
Second, the plan must make a stronger effort to increase the supply of ECE programs that serve the city’s diverse child population in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way. Finally, the plan must address how OSSE will work to make the District’s ECE workforce more diverse.
Let me provide more detail on each point.
With regard to the workforce and professional development system, OSSE is requiring all assistant teachers to have a Child Development Associate credential by December of 2020 and all lead teachers to have an associate’s degree by December 2023. However, Section 6 of the draft CCDF plan, which outlines the District’s professional development framework, does not sufficiently describe how the city plans to support educators in reaching these new minimum credential requirements. While credentials are an important component of quality, a system must be in place that supports early educators in obtaining them, as well as commensurate compensation once the credentials are obtained. As the District is already struggling to maintain its current ECE workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these additional requirements—without the necessary supports—will further decrease supply in the city.
Second, the District’s ECE educators support a growing population of multilingual children. About 12 percent of children in the District have a home language other than English. While research is clear that these children learn best when the home language is fostered while they learn English, there is an insufficient supply of multilingual ECE programs in the city. This is particularly true for children and families living east of the river. All children benefit from culturally and linguistically diverse educators. Other states have used grants and contracted slots to increase the supply or quality of specific types of ECE programs, and this would be an excellent approach to increase the supply of multilingual programs. Currently, the plan does not include this as a strategy, but contracted slots would work to increase the supply of programs to support children with diverse linguistic or cultural backgrounds.
Finally, and relatedly, the plan does not provide strategies to meet the growing need for, and to fulfill OSSE’s commitment to, a more diverse ECE workforce. OSSE has prioritized a diverse ECE workforce that mirrors the District’s population of children. However, in the section of the plan that addresses workforce diversity, there is no language on how the District plans to meet this commitment.
These three changes to the plan are vital to the viability and quality of the District’s ECE system. Without creating a clear and established framework on how the District plans to support the required credentialing of educators, while also building up the supply of a culturally and linguistically diverse workforce and multilingual programs, the District’s ECE system will fall short of meeting the goals of the CCDF program.
Thank you again for the opportunity to comment on the draft CCDF plan. I would be happy to answer questions and be a resource for the implementation of the recommendations I have provided.