Testimony to DC Committee of the Whole Budget Hearing

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.

Testimony to the Committee of the Whole, Education Oversight Hearing

Hello Chair Mendelson and DC Councilmembers. My name is Martine Gordon. I am a resident of Ward 3, a working mom, and Vice President of Programs at Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

The Women’s Foundation is a community-supported foundation that invests in the power of women and girls of color in the region.

I want to talk today about educational infrastructure. DC has demonstrated a commitment to building up its overall education infrastructure. And while we know there is more work to be done, our public education system has a foundation on which to continue to build. In our current reality of pandemic and economic crisis, the question for parents with school-aged children is not if their kids will be able to return to school. It’s “when?”.

We do not, however, have an infrastructure like that for early education. We do not have the level of public investment needed to ensure infant and toddler classrooms will be able to re-open or stay open or to ensure early educators will be available to return to work.

The early education sector needs stronger public investment because, while early education is a public good, it is in crisis. As a society, we have relied on parents paying significant sums and early educators earning poverty wages to finance the system.  Personally, I will share that childcare costs for my family in 2020 equated to about a quarter of my income. On the other side of things, the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment reports that the poverty rate for early educators in DC is 34.4% – 5.8 times higher than for elementary school teachers.[1]

The system doesn’t work for early educators, and it doesn’t work for families.

While DC has invested more in prek, in particular, than other jurisdictions across the country, it is time we dedicated the level of public funding necessary to create an early education infrastructure that meets our economic and education needs. Fully implementing the Birth-to-Three law can help set up that infrastructure.

I want to acknowledge the emergency response funding that Council and the Administration dedicated to early education programs. I also want to recognize OSSE’s leadership, during a time of public crisis and internal transition. I look forward to learning of OSSE’s updated child care subsidy plan, and hope that OSSE and intergovernmental partners are provided with the funding and support needed to make it easier for eligible families to obtain and retain their child care subsidies and for programs to receive subsidy payments timely and in a way that allows them to plan[2].

Like many, I also eagerly anticipate additional federal support for early care and education. My hope is that the emergency funding coming to DC will be turned quickly and provide flexibility to programs[3].

Thank you so much for allowing me this time today. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.


[1] https://cscce.berkeley.edu/workforce-index-2020/states/district-columbia/

[2] For example, paying subsidies to programs based on enrollment instead of attendance to allow for stronger cash flow for programs and expanding the number of allowable absences for children to be able to stay home if sick but still keep their subsidy.

[3] If the funding is used to provide grants to licensed providers, I urge OSSE to ensure grant applications are simple, do not create unnecessary burdens to programs and that smaller programs and family child care providers have support in completing applications.

Washington Region Early Care and Education Workforce Network Implementation Plan For Competency-Based Career Pathways

ABOUT THIS IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

This plan was prepared by FSG through the generous support of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation and its Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative.

FSG

FSG is a mission-driven consulting firm supporting leaders in creating large-scale, lasting social change. Through strategy, evaluation, and research we help many types of actors — individually and collectively — make progress against the world’s toughest problems. Our teams work across all sectors by partnering with leading foundations, businesses, nonprofits, and governments in every region of the globe.

We seek to reimagine social change by identifying ways to maximize the impact of existing resources, amplifying the work of others to help advance knowledge and practice, and inspiring change agents around the world to achieve greater impact.

Washington Area Women’s Foundation

Washington Area Women’s Foundation is the only public foundation dedicated to increasing resources and opportunities for women and girls in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. We mobilize our community to ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls in the Washington region have the resources they need to thrive.

Washington Area Women’s Foundation established the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative in 2008, as a multi-year, multi-million dollar collective funding effort. The Collaborative is supported and directed by corporate funders and local and national foundations.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In April of 2015, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Research Council released a report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation, that is both ambitious and visionary in its recommendations for how to transform the workforce and systems that serve children from birth through age 8, or third grade.

To catalyze implementation of the report’s recommendations, the National Academy led a national “Implementation Network” of states across the country working to implement recommendations from the report. Our Washington Region Early Care & Education Workforce Network formed as one of the initial state networks, representing different sectors in early care and education (“ECE”) as well as the geographies of Maryland (Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties), Virginia (Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax Counties), and Washington, D.C. Our region decided to form a team based on the unique needs in our region, including better serving our multi-cultural immigrant population with high numbers of dual language learners; embracing that the ECE workforce in our region is highly transient across state lines and thus could benefit from transferable credentials and compensation levels; and counteracting the lack of connectedness to a valued profession and to peers in ECE.

Our project purpose: “Mapping competency-based career pathways that are linked to quality and compensation and can be used across the region” will result in two concrete, connected deliverables:

Deliverable 1: 

Career pathways document

·   Document based on existing ECE professional credential/knowledge/competency frameworks in our region that establishes a practical and common set of quality standards for competencies at different levels, including suggested compensation levels, that are linked to identified competencies.

Deliverable 2:

Blueprint for an implementation mechanism

·   Certification/credential process that assesses and verifies competencies among the region’s ECE professionals according to the competency levels defined in the career pathways document and that establishes suggested compensation levels that correspond to the certification/credential.
Initial feedback on this project has been gathered from dozens of ECE stakeholders in the region and overall this idea has been met with a positive response. Developing the final deliverables, ideally over the course of 12 months, will require a highly collaborative process of further engaging stakeholders in the region. Moreover, research will be conducted to better understand how to create a career pathways document that is clear and user-friendly; what the competencies should be at each level of the pathway; how the competencies can be assessed and verified by a third party; and what the cost and benefit will be of achieving compensation commensurate with demonstrated competencies.In order for these deliverables to be used in practice, the region will need to create supporting infrastructure, for example shared services and practices related to substitutes, mentors, and/or benefits administration. This project will explore the feasibility of this kind of supporting infrastructure.

For the thousands of dedicated ECE professionals in our region, we hope this project will result in greater awareness of where they are on the career pathway; greater ability to engage in continuous improvement of their competencies; increased compensation and compensation alignment among early education and learning settings; and greater connectedness to a valued profession and to peers. This is in service of the ultimate outcome of this work: children in the region benefit from high quality early childhood experiences that foster positive learning and development.

 

DOWNLOAD AND READ THE FULL IMPLEMENTATION PLAN HERE.

Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative

Managed by The Women’s Foundation, the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative (ECEFC) is a collective of foundation and corporate investors dedicated to supporting systemic approaches that increase quality, capacity and access to early care and education in the Washington region. Learn more about the Collaborative.

Resource – Early Care and Education in the Washington Region

Early care and education investments help prepare low-income children ages zero to five for kindergarten, a critical opportunity to increase readiness and close the achievement gap, provide an important work support for low-income working families and support the professional development and advancement of early care and education providers. In this fact sheet, we explore early care and education in our region. Click here to read the full fact sheet.

ECE Fact Sheet Cover

Foundation Investments Push Early Learning in the Washington Region Forward

The Women’s Foundation’s recently announced investments of $630,000 in economic security efforts across the region included seven grants (totaling $325,000) for organizations working to increase the quality and capacity of, and access to, early care and education. These grants are made through the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative, a collective funding effort led by The Women’s Foundation that brings corporate funders and foundations together to invest in systems-level change in the region’s early care and education. You can learn more about the Collaborative and its partners here.

These investments seek to:

  1. Improve the quality of early care and education for low-income children ages zero to five;
  2. Expand access to affordable early care and education options;
  3. Support professional development for early care and education professionals;
  4. Encourage and strengthen partnerships among stakeholders that support positive changes in the early care and education system.

This year, our early care and education grants continue to support increased advocacy work, an effort that began last year. These investments include Voices for Virginia’s Children, working across Northern Virginia; Prince George’s Child Resource Center, mobilizing in Prince George’s County, Maryland; AppleTree Institute, and a partnership of DC Appleseed and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, focused on the District of Columbia.

The partnership between DC Appleseed and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute is particularly exciting. Together, they are responding to an identified need within DC’s early childhood community: lack of consistent and complete data that captures the cost of quality programs. They will also examine the impending costs facing providers as they adapt to a changing Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), proposed changes in licensing and regulations, the costs of professional development and increased compensation for teachers and the costs of serving children with developmental delays and/or special health care needs. The findings of the study will form the platform for an advocacy agenda, steeped in research data to help advocates rally around a common agenda.

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The Women’s Foundation is proud to be one of many investing in early care and education (with more investors recently, as evidence by the White House Summit on Early Learning). Research shows that young children (ages 0 to 5) need a strong social, emotional and intellectual foundation to succeed in school. Children who enter kindergarten without this foundation for learning are more likely to face significant academic challenges than peers who come prepared. Quality early care and education can successfully close this “preparation gap,” while facilitating the economic security and long-term financial success of low-income families; supporting parents in the workforce; and preparing future workers to meet the needs of the regional business community and become active, contributing members of society.

We look forward to supporting our Grantee Partners as we push these goals forward in our region!

Here’s a full list of this year’s early care and education grants.

2015 Grant Investments in Early Care and Education

  • AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation
    To support AppleTree Institute’s increased communications and advocacy efforts in Washington, DC, aimed at defining quality early education in terms of child outcomes that result in school readiness.
  •  CentroNia
    To support the CentroNía Institute in piloting and testing the Unpacking CLASS Tool Kit, an instructional guide that helps early childhood teachers and center directors improve teacher-child quality interaction in the classroom.
  • DC Appleseed
    To partner with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute to design and produce a study of the District’s child care costs.
  • The Literacy Lab
    To support the Metro DC Reading Corps Pre-K Program, which embeds literacy tutors in DC and Alexandria’s highest-need early childhood classrooms to provide children with daily literacy interventions that prepare them for kindergarten and future educational success.
  • National Black Child Development Institute
    To support the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood DC program, which will invest in the professional development and improved quality of teachers serving children from birth through age five in the District of Columbia.
  • Prince George’s Child Resource Center
    To support Joining Voices, an advocacy project in Prince George’s County that empowers parents and child care providers to articulate the importance of quality child care for family stability, school readiness and economic growth.
  • Voices for Virginia’s Children
    To promote public policies and investments that ensure all children in Northern Virginia, particularly those who are disadvantaged, enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

Is "care" having a moment or a movement?

This is the final installment in our series on the White House Summit on Working Families, which The Women’s Foundation attended earlier this summer.  Be sure to read the other posts in our series.

As a foundation focused on economic security work, “care” is both a central and pervasive challenge – and an opportunity to influence the trajectory of multiple generations. Child care allows parents to work, or to complete the education and training necessary to find a good job. But quality early care and education is expensive, and not always accessible – in terms of location, or the hours that may or may not match up with a worker’s schedule. Quality also comes at a cost: “In 2012, in 31 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual cost for an infant in center-based care was higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a four-year public college.” That said, quality early care and education provides critical early learning opportunities, and helps prepare children for kindergarten and beyond. For low-income children in particular, early learning can help close the “readiness gap” that influences educational attainment and economic security in the long-term.

As a women’s foundation, these issues are even more central. Women make up a large percentage of the care workforce (in the child care and early learning space, but also home care and eldercare workers). These professions are low paying. Look at the formal child care workforce alone, and you’ll see that women make up nearly 95% of the workforce. Those jobs are also some of the lowest paying in the US: of the 823 occupations tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 24 professions earn less than child care workers. Looking beyond the formal care workforce, women are also largely informally impacted by the “sandwich generation,” no matter their profession – that is, they are taking on the responsibility of caring for children and aging parents simultaneously. This has a tremendous impact on work/life balance, employment opportunities, and earning potential.

The White House Summit on Working Families featured a panel discussion on caregiving. A few highlights from the conversation…

  • On quality early care and education: In decisions about child care, quality is not always the driver of parent choice. Other factors could be cost, convenience, or the comfort of knowing a family member or neighbor. In practice and in policy, we have to find ways to get beyond the amorphous “quality” concept that may or may not resonate with parents.
  • On economic security: As Gail Hunt, CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, pointed out, the burden of balancing work and family has a long-term impact on economic security. Seventy-five percent of people with caregiving responsibilities are also working; two-thirds of those people find that they have to make some sort of workplace accommodation to allow them to handle their caregiving responsibilities. The resulting loss in wages, pension, and social security for each of these women: $325,000 over the period that the worker is also a caregiver.
  • On the case for employers:  David Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons, pointed out the impact of “caregiving stress” on workers. He makes the economic case to employers for workplace flexibility and balancing caregiving responsibilities:  caregiving stress cuts into worker productivity, and it impacts the cost of employer-sponsored healthcare. There’s an economic case for employers to be on board with changes in policy that influence this issue.

WhiteHouseSummit900

What was missing from the Summit conversation?

  • Robust discussion of improving pay for the caregiving workforce. It was only a question from the audience, at the end of the panel session, that sparked discussion around low pay. In response, Duffy Campbell of the National Women’s Law Center pointed to the need for policy solutions – that the market isn’t working for the workers who are parents/caregivers, or the workers who are caregiving providers. I only wish this was a more central piece of the discussion. Higher pay for this workforce would impact the economic security of this mostly-female workforce; it would also help translate to higher quality early care and education programs in the community.
  • Race. I was happy that gender was often discussed at the Summit, but overall, race was left out of the conversation. The same was true in the panel on caregiving – even though, for example, 16% of the child care workforce are African American and 19% are of Hispanic or Latino origin.
  • How issues of caregiving begin early. The Women’s Foundation invests in the economic security of women AND girls. When we planned our strategy for investing in girls , we repeatedly heard from providers and advocates the need to recognize the caregiving responsibilities that girls and young women were taking on at home, and the impact of those responsibilities on their education, afterschool options and workforce participation. When reliable care isn’t available for younger siblings, older girls in the family often step in. Solving caregiving challenges has the potential to impact multiple generations at once.

It certainly feels like care is having a moment in the spotlight – from the Summit, to national conversations about Pre-K access and media stories talking about the crisis of care. We can only hope this moment turns into a movement with real solutions for families.

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If you’re interested in care issues, check out more on The Women’s Foundation’s Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative. Interested in further reading? Check out the following resources:

 

Takeaways from the White House Summit on Working Families

obama-working-families-summittYesterday, I had the privilege to attend the White House Summit on Working Families.  The White House hosted the Summit along with the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress, to highlight and discuss some of the most pressing issues facing workers and families in our 21st century workplaces.

The Women’s Foundation will have a series of blogs on the Summit, but for now, here are my immediate takeaways:

1. Expect to hear more about paid family leave, especially parental leave; fair pay; and early learning. These were several policy areas the President explicitly mentioned in his speech. He also mentioned many more and announced new and greater flexibility for federal workers.

2. Get engaged at the local level.  National change is slow and, as the First Lady encouraged when she spoke to the Summit, we have to be okay with incremental progress of 20%, stacked on another 20%, and so on.  It is this steady – albeit slow – progress that can help us push forward.  On the local level, mayors and governors can enact change much sooner in their cities and states.  Likewise, CEOs can enact change in their own companies, and show others how these policies support workers and improve the bottom line.

3. Women everywhere, at all levels, are making sacrifices and choices.  As some women ascend, it is our responsibility to mentor the next generation and set “the tone from the middle” or “the tone from the top” – depending on where we are in our careers – and take it upon ourselves to create workplace cultures and policies that are fair, supportive and productive.

4. These are not just women’s issues.  These are issues for all working people, of all family types, and they can’t be pigeon-holed.  Whether it is a working dad, who wants to care for his infant in the first days of parenthood, or a childless worker that needs to take an elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment, issues like paid leave affect the ability of all working people to provide and care for their families while they earn a living and contribute to the economy.

Stay tuned for more in depth coverage of the Summit from The Women’s Foundation! In the meantime, you can find more information on http://workingfamiliessummit.org or check out the conversation on Twitter using #FamiliesSucceed.

Reflections on the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative

Editor’s Note: Fight For Children was a part of the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative for four years before leaving in 2014. Skip McKoy, Fight for Children’s Director of Programmatic Initiatives, shares his reflections in this guest blog post.

Fight For Children, SkipAt the end of June, Fight For Children will transition off of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative to focus our attention on Joe’s Champs, our early childhood, school-based education program. We developed Joe’s Champs to provide principals, assistant principals, and teachers with professional development and mentorship opportunities focused specifically on students ages 3-4, a period sometimes overlooked by educators but vitally important to a child’s academic and social development. Without the extensive discussions with funders of the early childhood space—including those we met through the Collaborative—we would not be as confident in the success of Joe’s Champs as we are today.

When Fight For Children joined the Collaborative in 2010, we were primarily a grant-making organization.  The Collaborative provided us with an opportunity to engage with and learn from other local organizations interested in supporting early childhood development. As Fight For Children shifts from a grant-maker to an organization that designs and runs its own programs, the Collaborative remains a valuable resource for us, other local funders, and early childhood education leaders.

As I reflect back on our four years as a Collaborative member, I am grateful for the many opportunities and lessons learned. Here are a few that stand out to me:

  1. On the Collaborative, Fight For Children has had the opportunity to join forces with other organizations to leverage our impact on local children. For example, in 2013, as a member of the Collaborative we contributed to the support of ten early childhood education projects, in addition to the projects we support on our own.
  2. Fight For Children has a small staff that goes into the community throughout the year to research potential organizations with which to partner. Being part of the Collaborative exposed us to projects otherwise unfamiliar to us, given our limited resources.
  3. As a non-profit focused on children within DC City limits, Fight For Children staff do not readily have opportunities to learn about innovative approaches occurring elsewhere in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia region. The Collaborative has facilitated our experiences with early childhood education and development projects outside of DC, which we were then able to reference during our development of Joe’s Champs.

Any of these reasons alone would be a powerful incentive for an early childhood funder to join the Collaborative. But, there is another value-add to being part of the Collaborative: the group of funders* represented at the table are all well-respected and thoughtful. They represent a cross-section of foundations and corporations dedicated to improving early childhood care and education in this region. Having different organizations bring to light the multiple sections of the proverbial early childhood education elephant provides a better sense of the big picture, allowing each of us to be more thoughtful change agents and resulting in an even greater, systemic impact.

*The Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative currently includes: The Boeing Company, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, PNC Foundation, Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, and Weissberg Foundation.

Advocacy for Early Learning in Northern VA: A Report from the Field

Emily Griffey is a Senior Policy Analyst for Voices for Virginia’s Children, a Women’s Foundation Grantee Partner.

Much like your typical preschool classroom, activity, opportunity and challenge were in the air in Fairfax the week of April 7-11th.  That week happened to be the Week of the Young Child and public hearings on the Fairfax County budget, creating a perfect opportunity to rally early education supporters to demonstrate their impact on school readiness and ask for increased local support. Adding to the opportunities and challenges this year, Fairfax is faced with numerous requests for funding from different stakeholders groups and budget uncertainty. With proposed local budget increases for early learning opportunities on the table – a $714,000 package for additional mentors and professional development for child care providers and an expansion of the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) – advocates were needed to go on the record, along with these many other groups asking for increases, so that early learning would be included in the final budget.

Voices for Virginia’s Children is fortunate to have the opportunity to weigh in on early learning opportunities for Northern VA children through a grant from the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative. While it may seem that Northern VA is one of the more affluent parts of Virginia, Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax are home to 6,000 children under age 5 living in poverty (2012 ACS 1 year estimate). And Virginia’s early learning resources lag behind those provided across the metro area.

Calling the campaign #SchoolReadiness4Nova, Voices activated a network of local community leaders, early childhood program providers, and advocates to participate in a letter writing campaign, rally and public testimony to support the funding increase for early learning. (A report by Mission: Readiness, another  Grantee Partner of the Collaborative, notes that Fairfax falls short of the potential of VPI.)

Voices VA Children 2

Wednesday, April 9th became a Day of Action for Early Learning in Fairfax and kicked off with a rally at one of Fairfax’s 4-star rated early learning centers and a community-based VPI provider, Main Street Child Development Center. Details and video from the rally are available on Voices’ website and Facebook page.

Speakers urged the Board of Supervisors to include the proposed $714,000 investment for school readiness in the final county budget, and to look to the coming years with a plan for significantly expanding VPI participation.

WTOP news radio covered the rally and interviewed Carol Lieske, Director of Main Street Child Development Center and Mary Beth Testa, Voices’ local policy consultant. A clip of the interview ran throughout the afternoon commute that day, and an article was published on the WTOP website.

Advocates proceeded to the public hearing on the budget that afternoon, delivering art from children from Reston and Falls Church to the members of the Board of Supervisors.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is now in the final days of decision-making on the county budget. We think that the flurry of activity during the Week of the Young Child will help to make the case that strengthening school readiness opportunities are essential services in the Fairfax local budget.

You can take action now to show local leaders in Fairfax that early education matters; for more information on #SchoolReadinessforNoVa and how you can participate, visit Voices for Virginia’s Children.