by: Barbara Bainum
Last year, Washington, D.C.’s Mayor and Council enacted ground-breaking legislation that sets the city on a path to creating a strong and equitable foundation for its youngest residents. The Birth-to-Three For All DC Act of 2018 is a blueprint for comprehensive education and health services for infants and toddlers that seeks to end the stark inequities in services, supports and opportunities that exist — by race and income — for children and families in our community.
However, the legislation must be funded to fulfill its potential. We at the Bainum Family Foundation are delighted that Mayor Bowser and the DC Council allocated $15.8 million in next year’s budget as a tangible commitment to this promise to the city’s families.
This funding includes support for several key provisions of the Act. The largest part (almost $9.3 million) is devoted to increasing the city’s child care subsidy reimbursements rates for early childhood education centers. Increasing funding for these centers will allow providers to better cover the cost of high-quality infant and toddler care, including wages for the educators who nurture our city’s babies and toddlers in their most formative years while often living in poverty themselves. This is a step toward recognizing the value of their work, and it will help to enhance and stabilize the early childhood workforce in D.C.
The budget also includes significant support for home visiting for homeless and immigrant parents as part of the Early Head Start program. Combined with investments in Healthy Futures, HealthySteps, Help Me Grow and lactation consultant programs, these comprehensive health and parenting supports will make our systems of care work better for D.C.’s families and children.
It was especially gratifying to see widespread support for funding of Birth-to-Three provisions across the Council. Many Councilmembers identified funding for key programs and championed early childhood supports through their Committees and in public statements during budget season. We further applaud the Council for re-directing other public funds to benefit some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
The Foundation is proud to be working with a variety of organizations that have helped call attention to the importance of the early years and the need for substantial, sustained funding for effective programs. We commend the three organizations — DC Working Families, Jews United for Justice and SPACEs in Action — that played a convening role in the effort to fund this vital legislation, as well the many other organizations that contributed, including members of the Birth-to-Three Policy Alliance.
These organizations worked alongside community members to inform the city’s elected leaders about the importance and urgency of funding early childhood programs to systematically advance racial, health, educational and economic equity in D.C.
While this budget is a wonderful start, we still have far to go. Our Foundation remains committed to working with community residents, our partners and District leaders to build and fund the visionary early childhood system that the Birth-to-Three legislation outlines, setting an example for the nation and ensuring all children in our city have the support they need to thrive in both school and life.