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?
Something I am already doing is NOT participating in the so-called “Fair Elections” Program. We have many city agencies with responsibility for children and families: my recommendation is that these agencies review their assigned responsibilities and work with existing non-profits such as Friendship Place, etc., as well as our faith communities to reduce homelessness. Our goal should be zero homeless in D.C.
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 an immigrant and refugee who grew up in poverty, I know from my own experience that an education is everyone’s ticket to a successful future: it worked for Dr. Ben Carson, Frederick Douglass, Nely Galan, me, and so many others. Our goal is a quality education for all D.C. children — a 90% high school graduation rate and strong vocational/technical program that enables high school graduates who do not go on to college to have the skillset to earn a good living when they graduate.
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?
In the wake of the pandemic: reduce unemployment insurance tax penalties for hard-hit industries, such as hospitality and retail; align taxable unemployment insurance wage base with insurable earnings to expand the tax base. Consider a flat tax in future: A flat tax is “equitable” because everyone would pay the same percent in taxes.
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?
Given the CFO’s projections of reduced revenues for the next two fiscal years, my recommendation is to re-assess out budget and priorities to reduce duplicate efforts and find money for required services. Every agency should do a “zero-based” budget exercise to identify opportunities for savings and efficient operations.
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?
Our schools have been woefully underperforming even before the recent pandemic: are we proud of a 62% high school graduation rate?! There is plenty of room for improvement in getting to the goal of a quality education for all our children. As your Councilmember, I would work with parents, teachers, the Board of Education, and out-of-school time providers to cooperate in supporting our students’ education.
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?
As your Councilmember, I would assess existing community health assets and identify deficiencies to improve access to local resources for all residents.
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?
As mentioned earlier, there is ample room for improvement in better taking care of our children and youth: this is a good time for all city agencies to evaluate their operations and find creative and cost-effective ways to reach our goals of a quality education and related services.
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?
Lowering the voting age to 16 is not a good idea. Parents, guardians, and teachers are those with the immediate responsibility of caring for the well-being of children and families. My recommendation is that existing city agencies work with community non-profit organizations and local churches to care for children and families.