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The D.C. Council voted unanimously to invest tax dollars from D.C.’s wealthiest to help early child care workers achieve pay equity with public elementary school teachers this year. Of the more than 3,000 day-care workers in the city, those who apply for the supplemental funds will be eligible to receive a $10,000 to $14,000 raise based on role, experience, and credentials. The measure was one of several recommendations from a Council-appointed task force that examined compensation equity for early educators. The Office of the State Superintendent has until the end of the District’s fiscal year, Sept. 31, to send the checks.
There was a celebratory mood at the legislative meeting yesterday as councilmembers lauded their efforts in what they hope will be a model for day-care compensation nationwide. Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George shared her aunt’s experience leaving the early education field to care for family. She said better pay helps with worker turnover, particularly for Black and Brown early childhood educators who make up most of the field. Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White talked about the importance of keeping “our frontline workers who are in a classroom educating, empowering, and uplifting beautiful minds” in toddlers for whom early intervention is critical.
Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray got props from colleagues for pushing for the Birth-to-Three for All D.C., a 2018 law that in part formed the basis for this more recent legislation. Birth-to-Three requires OSSE to update the compensation scale for early childhood educators to attain parity with DCPS elementary school teachers based on teacher roles, credentials, and experience. But OSSE has yet to act, which prompted the Council to create the task force, back in November.
“Early care educators … play a critical role in the lives of our young people, making it possible for parents to work and provide for their families, and for so long have been paid at a level that does not represent the value that they contribute to our community,” said At-Large Councilmember Christina Henderson.
The last time that investment in D.C. early childhood educators was on the line in a Council vote, the picture looked a lot different: Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who introduced this bill, had opposed a bill in July that raised taxes on the wealthy in order to fund the raises. At the time, Mendelson claimed that just because he opposed raising taxes did not also mean that he opposed raises for early childhood educators. Mendelson, along with Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, and At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds lost the battle over tax increases.
The boost in pay is a one-time deal, and advocates are calling for further action to truly help day-care workers achieve parity. The task force is scheduled to release another report in mid-April that speaks to those efforts.
“It is only part one of a longer-term plan to permanently increase compensation for early educators who have carried so much during what feels like a never-ending pandemic,” Under 3 DC Coalition Director and taskforce member Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen said in a press release following the vote.
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