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?
Women and children are facing a serious housing crisis, which has been made more urgent as a result of the pandemic. I believe that we have a responsibility to fully-fund the network of housing and homelessness programs and provide extensive rent relief now. Regardless of a student’s income level, race or neighborhood, every student can learn. As Councilwoman I commit to amending our budget allocations to address the needs of all students so they can be successful. Providing wrap-around services within the schools to student and families is a key tactic to streamlining access to services and educating families on all of the support available.
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?
Equity begins with the budget. We need to allocate resources so that every student gets what they need. It is particularly important that we get this information at the building-level for all traditional, selective, and public charter schools in order to understand how to make our system more equitable. I believe that regardless of where a student lives they should have their individual needs met to ensure academic achievement. We can set ambitious goals for all of our students and recognize that the path to getting there needs to be flexible enough to address the existing inequity in our city and our system.
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?
I would implement recommended income tax increases that the council voted down in recent budget hearing. I wouldn’t tax businesses more, but instead I would reduce the tax cuts we currently have.
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?
NO ONE has a viable plan to raise money for Birth to Three, especially not now. We could probably get some revenue corporations over a certain size – to pay into a fund similar to the housing production trust fund. Also public private partnerships (e.g. philanthropy that cares about early childhood education) are an option.
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?
We should leverage the school space we have (some schools have unused space) to lease to community partners who provide support, especially during COVID and partner with Dept of Parks and Recreation to ensure schools collaborate with out-of-school-time programs.
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?
Short term solutions include providing better transportation access to primary care doctors and healthcare (e.g. shuttles) and incentivizing the expansion of hours and days of providers. Long term, DC released a Health Equity Report in 2019. The policy approach is summarized here: Equitable community health improvements will not be achieved by the health care system or public health working in a vacuum. Because 80% of community health outcomes are created outside of the traditional health care system, a multifaceted Health-In-All-Policies approach (APHA 2013, CDC n.d.) is essential to improving the health of all District residents, including achieving health equity. This includes in education, housing, food access, transportation, etc.
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?
The young women’s initiative of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation is a model we can build on, and already engages many local partners in organizing girls and young women in the District to inform policy. We can expand this model across agencies to elevate the voices of youth as we build policy that centers children and families.
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?
We need a city wide engagement process, including youth. Ensure youth representatives are on commissions, advisory boards, etc.