Race, Poverty, and Family Economic Security
On any given night in the District, more than 1,400 children and their families are in a shelter or on the street. Far more families are doubled up. During the 2018-19 school year, at least 7,700 students experienced homelessness. In addition, according to the 2019 Youth Count, approximately 1,300 unaccompanied youth, up to age 24, were homeless. DC residents experiencing homelessness are almost entirely Black and brown. The District’s system for serving families and young people in need of permanent housing is fragmented and challenging to navigate. How would you reform DC government services for children and youth experiencing homelessness to ensure the system effectively enables them to obtain the services they need?
Homelessness and the impact it has on families, children and youth is pronounced. The Mayor’s efforts to provide transitional quality housing in all eight Wards and the Housing First policy are progressive starts however more needs to be done. For children, the strategy of having them in transitional housing for less than a year is fraught with social, mental, health and developmental challenges. We should reconsider the definition and duration of transitional housing. Housing First falls short by nearly half the required housing units even with the new Comprehensive Plan. Time is of the essence and it is incumbent on all elected officials to advocate to aggressively expand the Comprehensive Plan to realize the Housing First goals.
No one deserves to live in poverty, especially children and youth, yet far too many in the District face crushing circumstances that have lifelong consequences. In 2019, 37% of Black children and 17% of Latinx children lived in poverty, compared to just 2% of white children. For children and youth to succeed and meet their full potential, we must close the racial gaps and eradicate poverty. What is your definition of racial equity? How do you think the District should address the significant disparities in poverty rates of Black and brown children compared with white children?
We need to urgently fund the Birth to Three for All DC Act. Research conclusively shows that prenatal through the age of three are crucial in brain development and that children with supportive, language rich environments start pre-K 3 on a path to success. Many children in the District do not have access to quality early childhood education. Longitudinal studies clearly demonstrate that universal early childhood education not only results in healthier, more prosperous lives for our children, but their parents benefit, too with better health, income and housing stability. The 15 year life expectancy difference between the city’s wealthy Wards and disadvantaged Wards is unacceptable. Funding the Act is the top priority of my candidacy.
Everyone who lives and works in the District has been affected by the pandemic, but not in the same way. Because of systemic racism, the impact has been particularly brutal on Black and brown residents who have suffered the greatest consequences in areas such as health, housing, job security and more. Unless we want to see these divides deepen, we need to take action. Earlier this year, DC Action for Children and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute conducted a poll of registered DC voters and found that 83 percent support raising local taxes on the highest earning residents to maintain vital public programs and services for families. Specifically, 78 percent of District voters support raising taxes on residents earning taxable income of $350,000 or more and 72 percent $250,000 or more, respectively. Would you support raising new taxes on DC’s highest income earning residents to maintain vital public services and meet children, youth and family needs?
What changes would you make to our tax system to ensure it is more equitable?
The seat I am running for does not have fiscal responsibility.
Since the pandemic, the importance of child care has only become more evident. Families will need access to safe, high-quality, and affordable care so they can return to work. Unfortunately, this kind of child care, costing an average of $23,000 per year, remains out of reach for most families, Early childhood educators, who are primarily Black and brown women, play a critical role in the learning and healthy development of infants and toddlers. Unfortunately, they earn about $30,000 per year, which is half of what their peers in public education earn, and they receive very few benefits. In 2018, the Council passed the Birth to Three for All Act, historic legislation that—if fully funded and implemented—will provide access to health and mental health care, early child development support, and high-quality, affordable child care to families with young children. The Act also raises wages for early childhood educators. To fully fund Birth to Three within 10 years, we will need to allocate nearly $300 million dollars. How would you plan to raise the revenue needed to fund the Birth to Three law?
Funding the Act is the focal point of my campaign. I do not propose raising revenue to support the anticipated cost. Data clearly show that the rate of return of early childhood education exceeds 13% over a generation. We are investing billions of dollars into our school infrastructure. We could allocate a portion of the capital projects to meet the funding needs and in turn, through providing bonus density to developers where affordable housing is most needed, require proffers thereby achieving two crucial goals. Additional cost can be reallocated from the bloated central office. Within the ten-year time horizon, aggregate healthcare cost savings and reinvestment in our children will reduce the fiscal load to make the system sustainable.
In addition to potential learning loss, one of the negative consequences of virtual learning is the disparities that surface between schools. Some teachers have the resources they need to be successful in the virtual learning environment while others do not. These disparities directly affect students’ ability to learn. Out-of-school time programs can play an important role in addressing inequality and closing opportunity gaps by providing social and emotional learning, internships, mentorship, and tutors in communities and schools. However, school systems and out-of-school time providers do not effectively coordinate in order to best serve students. What steps would you take to ensure schools collaborate with out-of-school-time programs and keep them in place to serve students?
The disparity and independence of extended day care is unacceptable. Meaningful coordination between programs and engagement with PTA’s can identify the best practices and needs for each community. Our schools need to be the center of our community and provide safe enriching environments rather than unstructured after school care or worse, disengagement. Each additional hour of enrichment can add days of education over the course of the school year. Our children need free youth sports and tutoring coupling older students with their younger counterparts where both student and “teacher” learn and establish cross grade relationships strengthening the community and driving results.
Many District residents are enrolled in public health insurance, but they don't go to the doctor. What policies would you advance to ensure every family has a medical home in their community where they can access preventive and acute health care?
COVID has fundamentally changed our country; health care is a rare example of a positive change. Our schools are focal points of the community. Families are there daily. Most preventative and triage medicine is routine and has the potential to be low cost. Through COVID we have learned to embrace telemedicine which has eliminated waiting, commuting, the length of the visit and importantly cut the cost of health care visits dramatically. With the reduction in barriers of care our school health facilities could be repurposed to provide extended family care as satellite telemedicine at all hours of the day to meet the busy schedules of families and their working parents.
Many Black and brown immigrant parents have access to healthcare through the DC Healthcare Alliance. However, many report losing coverage due to the requirement to recertify every six months. Losing coverage in the middle of a pandemic can be a matter of life of death. Would you support a 12-month certification for the DC Healthcare Alliance, to align with Medicaid and DC Healthy Families, to ensure more consistent coverage?
Many states across the country, including Maryland, have recently created Children’s Cabinets to coordinate children and youth work across departments and to break down internal silos. The cabinets have created strategic goals to improve child well-being across issue areas. What are your thoughts about steps that DC can take to improve service coordination among departments and improve outcomes for children and youth?
DC is already working to coordinate children and youth work across departments and break down internal silos. There are challenges to creation of Children’s Cabinets including the additive cost for additional overhead and blurred lines of authority and responsibility. We should consider a cross collaborative task force that is jointly empowered by Council and the Mayor to conduct a time-bound study. The same sponsors should be open and prepared to act on the task force’s recommendations. Every day matters in our children’s development and growth. We don’t get a second chance so speed, data and commitment are crucial.
We believe that young people play a vital role in our democracy. Recent actions, organizing and protests, led by young people have been critical in advancing political and social change. Many youth leaders are too young to vote, but there is a growing Vote 16 movement. Do you support lowering the voting age to 16?
DC Action for Children believes that in order for our advocacy work to be most effective, it must be centered around the voices of children, youth, and families. This work must go further than just testimonies during DC Council hearings and meetings. In addition to lowering the voting age to 16, what are innovative ways you would involve and elevate the voices of children, youth, and families?
I applaud the SBOE for having student members; it is one of the reasons I am running to serve on a diverse Board. Student and family engagement are critical. Family engagement can center on supporting PTA’s and collaborating on best practices. The better supported the PTA’s are, the greater the parent voice and advocacy for the students ranging from health services or securing funding to restore a neighborhood park. Civic engagement is crucial and our young people are leading the way. Our curriculum should focus early on civics deliberately seeking out-of-class learning in the wealth of museums that the city has to offer. If civics lessons are relatable, our children will seek to be active voices in our communities- and we should listen.