Good afternoon, Councilmembers. My name is Jane and I am a resident of Ward 5 testifying on behalf of Jews United for Justice. I’m also a Speech-Language Pathologist working with kids under the age of three in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Today I’ll specifically focus my testimony on the ways that quality birth to three care affects language development.
When I started working with toddlers, I had three pairs of formal black pants. Then two of my pairs of pants became so worn at the knees that they split open during the workday, leaving my kneecaps exposed. I spent those days apologizing to parents and teachers for my uncharacteristically casual ripped pants. The reason for this is fairly simple – spending time with toddlers means spending time on the floor. There are no tricks with this age group – television, apps, and flashcards are largely ineffective when it comes to teaching them how to speak. Babies and toddlers learn best from face-to-face interactions with caring adults. Parent education and quality center-based care help kids learn language, and language skills help kids succeed in school later on. Language skills even predict how kids will do in seemingly unrelated subjects like math.
Every single parent I have worked with has wanted the best for their children. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critical, but our support for DC families in those 1,000 days is fractured, and it’s failing Black and Brown families in particular. Programs like home visiting help ensure every infant and toddler in DC, regardless of their family’s income, can get the high-quality wrap-around support and care they need to thrive. And they ensure that parents feel supported and confident in their ability to give their children a strong start in life.
Capping the cost of childcare at 10% of a family’s income through OSSE’s subsidy program, as the Birth to Three Act does, is the best way to increase affordability while improving quality for all kids. Tax credit plans help the families with the highest incomes. If my husband and I have a child, we won’t be able to afford the $23,000 per year price tag for DC childcare, and knocking that price down to $22,000 won’t change that calculation for our family.
Last year, I was thrilled that the council planned to give sports betting revenue to Birth to Three for All and violence interrupters through the NEAR Act. Please work to reallocate money from sports betting revenue to Birth to Three and the NEAR Act, and to do everything you can to allocate the additional $25 million needed to fully fund Birth to Three for All in the FY2020 budget.