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?
I actually worked at DC DHS (2003-2005) and witnessed firsthand their inability to put in place the proper component to effectively meet the needs of homeless families. While I applaud the mayor’s efforts by putting a homeless shelter in each Ward, we see this has not met our families’ needs. I recommend that we have a minimum of 3 shelters per Ward bringing the minimum of 24 homeless shelters throughout the city. I’d also work closer with Covenant House and the Wanda Alston Foundation to build homeless shelters specifically for run-a-way and LGBTQ youth. These two CBO’s work with our most at-risk youth and are oftentimes overwhelmed in providing services.
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?
As a resident of the most impoverished Ward, I witness the affects of poverty on youth and families everyday. I believe we start to address poverty by addressing the inequities in our public schools. I would start with increasing the per pupil funding formula for at-risk students. From there I’d allocate social workers, mental health practitioners, technology support and trauma trained teachers to schools that reach a predetermined percentage of at-risk students. The funding of these FTEs should NOT be tied to enrollment but percentage of students considered at-risk. It is obvious that using a uniform per pupil formula to allocate funding equally across schools is not working to meet schools experiencing educational inequities.
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?
As the parent of an educator, I believe we should provide a “housing allowance” to each DC teacher’s salary in the same manner provided military members. My daughter was forced to move home because she could not find affordable housing even though she makes what’s considered a good income. If teachers were provided a non-taxable housing allowance it would not only allow teachers to live in the communities in which they teach, but it would attract and retain more teachers in the profession.
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?
As a candidate for the SBOE, At-Large seat, I have been endorsed by the author of the Birth-to-Three legislation, Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray, and we discussed that this would be my first priority to work with him on to help our working families. Acknowledging that the SBOE positions are advisory, my job would be to build civic capacity during the budgetary cycle to influence the full funding of the Act. I suggest that the Council add a .5% tax increase to service/hospitality business industry to fund the initiative going forward.
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?
As the chief community engagement and growth officer for KIPP DC, I have vast experience working on out of school time providers and with local CBOs. It has been my job to design a comprehensive system of OST providers for the the network. In like manner, we can do this across all schools and both sectors by OSSE vetting and approving enrichment vendors and CBOs that schools could select from to provide for the unique wholistic needs of the children they serve. These vendors and CBOs would go through the same rigorous background checks as before/after-care providers and would be rated on diversity, inclusion and cultural creativity. Currently, each school must fend for themselves and do not know the quality of each vendor.
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?
Let’s start with ensuring there is a nurse in each school. Currently this is not the case. And if schools do have a nurse, most of them are not there the entire day. We need to ensure that each school is fully funded for a full time nurse. This would help with the accurate and regular administering of medicine and provide an opportunity for them to identify health concerns that disproportionately effect BIPOC communities.
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?
Children and Youth
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?
I had the opportunity to serve on former DCPS Chancellor Wilson’s Parent Cabinet and work with DCPS parents from across the city, so I wholeheartedly support the creation of a Children Cabinet so that students are provided the opportunity to address and influence decision-makers on policies and funding of programs that most impact their academic experience. The Children Cabinet could be broken down into committees and assigned to relevant government departments that impacts student well-being. They would provide recommendations to departmental directors and an overall recommendation to councilmembers and the mayor.
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’ve had the opportunity to work with Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE) and the student advocacy group Pathway to Power. They both provide examples of how we can elevate the family and student voice in our schools by creating school-side councils, which are different from LSATs and PTO/PTA as they advise the principals on not only budget but school culture and operations and student advocacy could take civics outside of the classroom to our communities and to the halls of government.