Thank you, Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers for your time today. My name is Michelle Engelmann and I live in Ward 2. I am a member of Jews United for Justice, a community of Jews and allies committed to advancing social, racial, and economic justice in DC. As a concerned citizen and community leader, I believe early childhood educators deserve to be compensated fairly for their difficult and essential work. Jewish family values are the foundation for my belief that all children and families should have the resources they need to thrive, including access to high quality, affordable early childcare education provided by educators who are paid fairly. We must ensure that the compensation supplements approved by the Council get into the educator’s hands in a timely and equitable manner in accordance with the recommendations of the Early Childhood Educator Equitable Compensation Task Force.
This Council’s historic investment in raising teacher compensation represents a critical first step in strengthening our early childcare system. In total, the funds for early educator compensation in FY 2022 and across the FY 2023-2026 financial plan amount to more than $275 million. The Council must ensure that $53.9 million in the Early Educator Compensation Fund gets into the pockets of educators as soon as possible this fiscal year, in accordance with the recommendations of the Task Force. We must be diligent in minimizing the loss of public benefits for early educators receiving the supplemental pay which they so deeply deserve. The Council must direct OSSE to provide extensive and effective outreach to early childhood educators to inform them of their eligibility to receive pay supplements. Currently, there is much misinformation and confusion in the field.
Furthermore, OSSE must provide sufficient and accurate technical assistance to help educators both apply for and understand the impact, if any, of pay supplements on their benefits. All teachers must be able to access OSSE’s communications and technical assistance in their preferred languages. No one should be left out. I urge you to require the translation of all documents, such as applications and instructions, completely and in a timely manner so that everyone will have fair access.
Going beyond this fiscal year, OSSE must develop the necessary infrastructure to implement the recommendations of the Task Force to ensure the compensation of early educators reaches pay and benefit parity with their DCPS counterparts in FY 2023 and beyond.
I am disappointed that the Mayor did not include any increases in funding to the multiple health support programs detailed in the Birth-to-Three Law and help provide the multifaceted services that families and children need. I would like to thank the members of the Council for recognizing the critical link between investing in the equitable compensation of early childcare educators and fostering a strong, effective early childcare system for all families in DC. We must be sure to implement this investment in the most effective way possible, in accordance with the recommendations of the Task Force, so that all teachers will be able to benefit from the funds that have been raised and dedicated for this purpose. I also hope the Council will rectify the Mayor’s lack of funding for health support programs like Healthy Futures and Healthy Steps.
Thank you for this opportunity to testify.