Testimony of Kimberly Perry
Executive Director, DC Action
Committee of the Whole
Budget Oversight Hearing
Council of the District of Columbia
June 25, 2021
Good morning, Chairman Mendelson and members of the DC Council. I’m Kimberly Perry, Executive Director of DC Action, the District’s independent, multi-issue child and youth advocacy organization working to close racial gaps in education, health, and economic well-being. We’re building power by engaging people– families, businesses, organizations, youth, and educators, particularly those most affected by discriminatory policies and practices.
As a result of hearing directly from youth and their families, we put together a set of innovative and equitable budget priorities like expanded early education, preventive health care homes, trauma-informed education supports, mental health care, and safer schools and communities resulting from more highly trained social workers and less over-policing. These investments need to be protected and sustained.
With such an infusion of federal funds from the Biden Administration, we appreciate Mayor Bowser preserving more than $3.4 billion of the $3.5 billion of program investments we advocated for, as we believe each of them is core not only to the relief and recovery of children, youth, and families from the pandemic, but also address long-lasting inequities.
Unfortunately, we've been able to confirm that her budget cut $307,000 in youth homelessness programs. The budget also falls short by $63,013,000 in key additional investments needed to deepen the commitment to our youth experiencing homelessness, fairly compensate early educators, provide mental and developmental health services for young children, and more.
To make sure this budget is a truly a budget that protects and prioritizes the needs of kids, youth, and their families, we urge the DC Council to:
- $307,000 in cuts to provide safe shelter and high-quality services for unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness
- $36 million for school security contracts that should be redirected to employ more school-based social workers
- $60 million for the Birth to Three law to fairly and equitably compensate early educators
- $1.7 million for a series of workforce development, behavioral health and other supports to youth experiencing homelessness
- $300,000 to HealthySteps and $675,000 to Healthy Futures for developmental and mental health supports in early childhood
- $135,000 to expand Medicaid to cover infant and postpartum care; and $155,000 to expand the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program for families who need it most
A new poll commissioned by DC Action and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute shows 80 percent of the District’s voters support raising taxes on incomes above $250,000 a year so we can invest sufficient local dollars into early childhood education, housing security, and programs that can help us address our widening racial inequality. A modest increase would raise more than $100 million annually.
You’ll hear testimony throughout the day from scores of our coalition members, educators, and youth about these priorities. And nearly a dozen business leaders have submitted written testimony about the importance of investing local, recurring funding into early education. We thank the Chairs of the many DC Council committees we’ve been providing testimony to and have been working with over the past month, including this one, for listening and making good on your promises to ensure this budget is fair and equitable for our kids and young people.