Agency Budget Hearing, Fiscal Year 2018, Office of the State Superintendent of Education

Testimony of Erica Dean, Research and Data Manager

DC Action for Children

 

Agency Budget Hearing, Fiscal Year 2018

Office of the State Superintendent of Education

 

Before the Committee on Education

Council of the District of Columbia

 

 

April 26, 2017

 

Good morning, Councilmember Grosso and members of the Committee on Education. My name is Erica Dean, and I am the Research and Data Manager at DC Action for Children.

 

DC Action for Children provides data-based analysis and policy leadership on critical issues facing DC children and youth. We are also the home of DC KIDS COUNT, an online resource that tracks key indicators of child well-being in the District.

 

My testimony today will focus primarily on Office of the State Superintendent’s (OSSE) role in ensuring access to early child care and educational services that support young children in the birth-to-eight educational pipeline, as proposed by the Mayor’s FY18 Budget.

 

Increasing Access to High-Quality Child Care in the District

 

The annual cost for early child care and education in the District is more than $22,000 a year – making it one of the most costly in the country and the highest in the DMV region[1]. Child care in the District is not only more expensive than the yearly in-state tuition for a 4-year public college, it also amounts to just under 35% of the median household income for the city[2].

 

As a result of grossly unacceptable salaries (less than $35,000/year), high facilities costs and a significantly increasing young child population[3],[4], the District does not have enough providers to support the current demand for additional child care slots, particularly when it comes to subsidized care[5].

 

Though we commend the Mayor in her acknowledgement of the need for expanded child care initiatives, DC Action feels further clarity on this one-time $15 million funding increase is warranted – specifically regarding the inclusion of subsidized child care slots.

 

As it is currently structured, money would be given to child care providers to expand their current facility or open a new facility, increasing the total number of slots by 1,300. Over 200 of these slots would be located in DC government buildings. Yet, we do not know if any portion of these new slots would be set aside for lower-income children. In the District, eligibility for subsidized care exceeds the number of available seats in Wards 1,7 and 8 and comes close in Ward 5. If a portion of subsidy slots were allotted, particularly in areas of highest need, our lower-income families would also benefit from the addition of new child care sites at the Deanwood Community Center in Ward 7 and UDC’s Bertie Backus Community College in Ward 5.

 

In response to the challenges surrounding the costs of paying for and providing child care, we applaud Councilmember Grosso’s proposed amendments to the DC Child Development Facilities Regulation Act. Taking these adjustments into consideration along with the input of subsidized child care workers, the District would have a strong foundational beginning from which an effective child care initiative benefittingboth children and providers could be created.

 

DC Action believes the District is moving in a forward direction and to ensure that all children are receiving high-quality child care and education, this proposal needs to include an allocation for subsidized slots.

 

Supports for Third Grade Reading

The ability to read proficiently by third grade is one of the best predictors of a student’s later academic success[6]. Students who are not proficient readers by the end of 3rd grade often struggle to catch up and are four times more likely to drop out of school than those who read proficiently. In February of 2016, DC Action released a policy brief exploring recent trends in third grade reading performance in the District and found that citywide proficiency had not improved for students between 2007 and 2014.

 

In the last two years, we have seen a slight increase in the percentage of 3rd grade students scoring at or above proficiency on the PARCC Reading exam (25% in 2015 to 26% in 2016). We are thrilled that reading proficiency is no longer on the decline for many of our students, but we still have strides to make in order to ensure that all DC children are reading proficiently by third grade.

 

As literacy is so crucial to future academic and life success, DC Action is disappointed that the Early Literacy Grant has not been renewed for a third year. Over the last two years, a total of $1.6 million was provided to the Literacy Lab and the DC branch of Reading Partners. Both of these organizations use evidence-based approaches in their daily teaching and reading intervention programs, which have been very influential. As a result of the money received from this grant, Reading Partners has served nearly 1,000 students from 20 different schools throughout DC. Because of their work, 94% of Reading Partner’s K-2 students mastered the necessary foundational reading skills to read at grade level in 2015 – 2016. Continuing to fund this Grant program would allow hundreds of additional elementary school students in DC to receive evidence-based literacy interventions that would provide the foundation for future life successes. DC Action strongly advocates that a 3rd year of funding be given to the Early Literacy Grant program.

 

In conclusion, we ask that the Mayor and OSSE take our suggestions and concerns into consideration before the FY18 budget is passed. Thank you, again, for your commitment to addressing the needs of our youngest and most vulnerable, as well as for the opportunity to testify today and I am happy to answer any questions.

 

 

[1] Child Care Aware of America. (2016). Parents and the high cost of child care: 2016. Retrieved from: http://usa.childcareaware.org/advocacy-public-policy/resources/reports-and-research/costofcare/.

[2] Economic Policy Institute. (2016). The cost of child care in Washington, DC. Retrieved from: http://www.epi.org/child-care-costs-in-the-united-states/#/DC.

[3] Dean, E. (2017). Highlighting the Month of the Young Child at the ward-level. DC Action for Children. Retrieved from: https://www.dcactionforchildren.org/blog/highlighting-month-young-child-ward-level.

[4] Office of the State Superintendent of Education. (2016). Modeling the cost of child care in the District of Columbia. Retrieved from: https://osse.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/osse/publication/attachments/Modeling%20the%20Cost%20of%20Child%20Care%20in%20…

[5] DC Action for Children (2012). Improving quality child care options for all DC children. Retrieved from: https://www.dcactionforchildren.org/sites/default/files/child%20care%20data%20snapshot_october%202012.pdf.

[6] Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2010). Early warning! Why reading by the end of third grade matters. Retrieved from: http://www.ccf.ny.gov/files/9013/8262/2751/AECFReporReadingGrade3.pdf.

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