Thank you, Chairman. My name is Martine [Sadarangani Gordon]. I’m a Ward 3 resident, Vice President of Programs at Washington Area Women’s Foundation and a member of the Under 3 DC advocacy coalition.
I’m also a mom of two young kids, and I am here today to reiterate the need for increased, long-term public investment in early education. For far too long, our society has relied on parents paying significant sums for childcare and early educators earning poverty wages to finance the system. My own childcare costs in 2021 will exceed a third of my income, but on the other side of things, more than 34% of early educators in DC are living in poverty. It is a cruel joke that early educators in DC do not earn enough to afford childcare for their own children.
Councilmembers, economic instability wasn’t caused by the pandemic. Many DC families have struggled for decades, in part, because of how expensive it is to pay for basic needs – housing, healthcare, and childcare among them. Childcare costs alone can eat into 80% of a local family’s income. There is a reason other wealthy countries pay for social supports, like early education, for their residents. They know most hardworking people simply can’t afford to do it on their own. We, here in DC, cannot expect any measure of economic stability if we do not better subsidize these costs and ensure livable compensation for our most valuable workforce.
I know we just got a whole lot of federal money, but that is not sustainable funding. That’s why the time is now to increase taxes on the highest income earners so we can help families to not have to live in poverty. A tax increase on households with taxable income of more than $250,000 would represent just 3% of taxpayers in DC, and we know that those households represent the wealthiest taxpayers who have fared well during this pandemic. In exchange, a tax increase like this would allow for a $60 million enhancement to our childcare subsidy program. So, please raise revenue.
On a related topic, as someone who had both my children before DC’s paid leave program started, I am strongly against any proposal to use any surplus dollars from the Paid Family and Medical Leave program to cut taxes to corporations. That money belongs with the hardworking families and caregivers who need it. I urge you to reject that proposal and use those funds to expand paid family & medical leave instead.
You have heard, and will continue to hear, today from early educators and parents who are pleading for change to our systems. DC residents are supportive of increased investments in early education. We have seen that through both recent surveys and through the widespread public support of DC’s universal prek program.
I have worked on early education policy in DC for over a decade, and I know that the changes needed are not all legislative. But I assure you, they are not insurmountable. What you, as Councilmembers, can ensure is that the funding to make those changes is available. You have the power to make things better. A tax increase on just 3% of our wealthiest folks can go a long way.