Agency Budget Hearing, Fiscal Year 2016, Office of the State Superintendent of Education

DC Action testified during the budget oversight hearing for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Our testimony focused on the importance of adequate funding for early care and education initiatives in the District. Read our full remarks below: 

Testimony of Lisa Raymond, Deputy Director

DC Action for Children

Agency Budget Hearing, Fiscal Year 2016

Office of the State Superintendent of Education

Before the Committee on Education

Council of the District of Columbia

April 30, 2015

 

Good morning, Councilmember Grosso and members of the Committee on Education. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council as it reviews the proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. My name is Lisa Raymond, and I am the deputy director for DC Action for Children. I have also had the honor of serving the District of Columbia as the President and Ward 6 Member of the State Board of Education and as the education advisor to the DC Council under the former Chairman, Kwame Brown.

DC Action for Children (DC Action) provides data-based analysis and policy leadership on critical issues facing DC children and youth, to promote policies and actions that optimize child and family well-being.

DC Action is the home of DC KIDS COUNT, which tracks key indicators of child well-being in the DC neighborhoods where children live, learn and grow. We work closely with city agencies, the school system and service providers to share the most accurate and timely data, along with clear and accessible analysis. Our advocacy agenda is based on these data.

My testimony today will focus primarily on OSSE’s leadership role in early childhood education, and particularly on our youngest learners aged birth to three.

OSSE has been through many leadership changes over the past few years and DC Action is pleased to see the appointment by Mayor Bowser of Hanseul Kang as the new State Superintendent of Education. We welcome State Superintendent Kang and also Elizabeth Groginsky, who was appointed a few months ago as Assistant Superintendent of Early Learning – a position that had not been filled with a permanent staff member for a few years. Ms. Groginsky has impressed us with her clear vision and her demonstrated ability in her previous work in Colorado and on the national level to use data to dramatically improve the quality of programs for children aged birth to three.

Need for Quality Child Care in the District

Early care and education for children aged birth to three is a critical component of our educational pipeline and must be our next significant investment as a city. If the District hopes to meaningfully address learning gaps when they begin, infants and toddlers must have access to quality child care programs that support their development.

High-quality child care for infants and toddlers is vitally important to working families of all income levels in DC, but it is especially beneficial to young children from low-income families. We know that the academic achievement gaps begin early in life, before children even start prekindergarten and that low-income children are most likely to enter Pre-K already behind their peers.

The science of brain development tells us that the infant and toddler years are among the most critical for healthy brain development, and time spent in a high-quality educational environment during those years will be an asset throughout a child’s life, resulting in improved cognitive abilities and important behavioral traits such as self-esteem, sociability, and motivation. Investments in quality care and education for children aged birth to three pay off enormously for entire communities, measured by improved college performance, higher income and lower incarceration rates.

Unfortunately, too many DC families are unable to find high-quality child care environments for their infants and toddlers, in their neighborhoods, at prices they can afford.

  • According to the most recently available data, there are approximately 26,500 children under age 3 in DC[1], and only 9,403 infant and toddler child care slots in licensed child development centers and homes.[2]
  • That is a ratio of nearly 3 children per slot.

 

Many families who are unable to afford or find child care turn to informal arrangements with unlicensed providers, where DC cannot assess safety or quality. Unfortunately, we do not have reliable data from OSSE on exactly how many families want to enroll their children in licensed child development centers or homes, but are shut out due to low capacity or high prices.

Early Learning Quality Improvement Network

DC Action is pleased to recognize that OSSE is taking steps in the right direction by simultaneously focusing on child care quality and access. Most significant is the recent investment of over $2.7 million in a new Early Learning Quality Improvement Network (QIN) – a strategy to support the learning, emotional, and health needs of children from birth to three so that they are better prepared to enter pre-kindergarten.

The QIN is supported by both federal and local funds: over $930,000 annually for five years from a federal Early Head Start grant and $1.8 million in local funding. It will fund local partners to serve as “Hubs,” who will be responsible for supporting child care centers and homes, helping them meet Early Head Start standards, which are recognized as the benchmark for quality, and expanding the number of high quality child care slots available to families. As we have seen during our many years working in early care and education, this type of centralized support and training for child care providers is greatly needed. This work is groundbreaking for the District, and for the nation, and DC Action is excited by the possible benefits it offers to children aged birth to three.

Identifying the Costs of Quality Childcare

The District, through OSSE’s leadership, is also embarking on a new way to establish subsidy rates for child care. Many of our low-income residents rely on child care subsidies in order to afford the high costs of childcare; in FY14 alone, the District spent approximately $74 million on childcare subsidies. Until now, the subsidy rate has been set using market analysis, which involves identifying the price that providers are able to charge – an amount that is often dictated by how much parents are willing to pay. Not surprisingly, this approach does little to improve the quality of childcare. For example, if we were building a bridge, which process would result in one of better quality: setting a budget based on what we think people would pay to cross the bridge, or developing a budget that we know will result in a quality bridge that will actually be safe to cross?

Starting this year, OSSE will engage in the new practice of cost modeling for child care – an approach that estimates the actual cost of delivering child care services at different levels of quality and uses that amount to determine child care subsidies. This approach is similar to that used in adequacy studies – including the one completed in 2013 by the District that resulted in the new at-risk poverty rate – which are used to determine the resources necessary to provide an adequate education to students in K-12 systems. While the adequacy study’s methodology may differ in some ways from cost modeling, the underlying logic is the same; if we want to build quality programs for children, we need to understand their true cost.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have.

 

 




[1] Data via DC Kids Count; Child Population by Single Age;  Source: US Census Bureau. Accessed at: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/100-child-population-by-single-age?loc=10&loct=3#detailed/3/any/false/36,868,867,13…

[2] Data from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, FY15 Budget Oversight Response

Disqus comments