By Ronald Jarrett, Coalition Director, Under 3 DC
The inaugural year of Under 3 DC is one I will never forget! I started 2020 excited about my plan to move to the District and lead DC Action for Children’s signature campaign to fund and implement the Birth-to-Three for All DC law. Instead, I began my work remotely from out-of-state during a public health crisis, building a hard-charging, dedicated team and charging ahead at what felt like 100 miles per hour to protect and preserve essential health and education services for families with young children.
Our coalition of parents, early childhood educators, community-based organizations, business owners, and health professionals worked together to reverse the mayor’s budget cuts to child care. We won broad support for our plan to provide emergency grants to the child care businesses.
Mayor Bowser and the DC Council felt our heat! Under 3 DC’s virtual town halls, lobby days, Tweetstorms, #SaveDCChildCare rallies, petitions, public hearings, and letters to government agency leaders convinced them to not slash funding child care and family health programs in the midst of what seems like a never-ending pandemic. I invite you to read more about how we moved the policy needle in the Under 3 DC 2020 Impact Report.
In a town struggling with long-standing structural barriers of social and economic discrimination still written into government policy, making change is hard. But our broad-based coalition brought elected officials together around one unifying value–every child deserves a strong start and limitless future.
What Will The New Year Bring?
The new year looks pretty bleak. Child care is in critical condition. Some providers never reopened, and others are considering permanent closure. The cost of doing business is exploding because of the expensive requirements to purchase PPE and other equipment to keep children and staff safe. Business revenue is down for many because of class size limits, subsidy program payment reductions, and many parents are either too fearful of returning or can’t afford to. The District could lose up to 50% of its child care slots.
Health and education services for families are also in danger of deep cuts. Health officials say that requests for virtual care are increasing at a rate they have never seen because of concerns about the pandemic. Educators worry about an impenetrable Pre-K achievement gap for children now age three or younger.
The lingering public health emergency has blown a deep hole in the District’s current budget (which lasts until September 30) and threatens DC government agency program planning for the next year. Rumors are swirling that Mayor Bowser has asked agency heads to find budget “savings.”
Under 3 DC is planning and retooling for what will be a tough fight. Will you consider supporting our work with a tax-deductible contribution?
We will persist in pushing for policies that limit the effect that COVID-19 financial shortfalls could have on young children, their families, and those who do the work of caring for them. There will be more neighborhood petitions, virtual town halls, socially distant rallies, testimony at Mayoral and DC Council hearings, and media campaigns to guarantee that our community is seen and heard.
Our community can only strengthen its standing if we expand our umbrella. Will you join us?