Race, Poverty, and Family Economic Security
On any given night in the District, more than 1,400 children and their families are in a shelter or on the street. Far more families are doubled up. During the 2018-19 school year, at least 7,700 students experienced homelessness. In addition, according to the 2019 Youth Count, approximately 1,300 unaccompanied youth, up to age 24, were homeless. DC residents experiencing homelessness are almost entirely Black and brown. The District’s system for serving families and young people in need of permanent housing is fragmented and challenging to navigate. How would you reform DC government services for children and youth experiencing homelessness to ensure the system effectively enables them to obtain the services they need?
It is an unfortunate fact that our government is not currently serving homeless youth and families. Last year, before the pandemic when DC was flush in revenues, the Deputy Mayor for Education and Office State of Superintendent were prepared to allow transportation for homeless students to lapse. We still don’t really know how that happened. Residents need to know where dollars are going and on what they’re being spent on. While the State Board of Education is an advisory body, I will be a strong voice for greater transparency, which will allow us all to understand if dollars are actually following students. I also believe that we must increase the amount of funding we provide to schools with large at-risk populations.
No one deserves to live in poverty, especially children and youth, yet far too many in the District face crushing circumstances that have lifelong consequences. In 2019, 37% of Black children and 17% of Latinx children lived in poverty, compared to just 2% of white children. For children and youth to succeed and meet their full potential, we must close the racial gaps and eradicate poverty. What is your definition of racial equity? How do you think the District should address the significant disparities in poverty rates of Black and brown children compared with white children?
Racial equity is reparative policies and practices that directly address the systemic discrimination that has been inflicted on communities of color, and that means appropriating greater resources to those communities than we might provide to white communities. In order to address the disparities in poverty rates of Black and Brown children compared with white children the District must acknowledge that Black and Brown communities are in greater need than their non-Black and Brown peers.
Everyone who lives and works in the District has been affected by the pandemic, but not in the same way. Because of systemic racism, the impact has been particularly brutal on Black and brown residents who have suffered the greatest consequences in areas such as health, housing, job security and more. Unless we want to see these divides deepen, we need to take action. Earlier this year, DC Action for Children and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute conducted a poll of registered DC voters and found that 83 percent support raising local taxes on the highest earning residents to maintain vital public programs and services for families. Specifically, 78 percent of District voters support raising taxes on residents earning taxable income of $350,000 or more and 72 percent $250,000 or more, respectively. Would you support raising new taxes on DC’s highest income earning residents to maintain vital public services and meet children, youth and family needs?
What changes would you make to our tax system to ensure it is more equitable?
- All residents making over 250K annually to pay increased taxes ( 200.00+)
- Increasing property taxes on homes that are valued over $1M
- Removing restrictions from the earned income tax credit and increasing the amount for low-income families
Since the pandemic, the importance of child care has only become more evident. Families will need access to safe, high-quality, and affordable care so they can return to work. Unfortunately, this kind of child care, costing an average of $23,000 per year, remains out of reach for most families, Early childhood educators, who are primarily Black and brown women, play a critical role in the learning and healthy development of infants and toddlers. Unfortunately, they earn about $30,000 per year, which is half of what their peers in public education earn, and they receive very few benefits. In 2018, the Council passed the Birth to Three for All Act, historic legislation that—if fully funded and implemented—will provide access to health and mental health care, early child development support, and high-quality, affordable child care to families with young children. The Act also raises wages for early childhood educators. To fully fund Birth to Three within 10 years, we will need to allocate nearly $300 million dollars. How would you plan to raise the revenue needed to fund the Birth to Three law?
While it would be outside of my purview, I would support raising taxes on high income earners and ending the QHTC tax break for corporations.
In addition to potential learning loss, one of the negative consequences of virtual learning is the disparities that surface between schools. Some teachers have the resources they need to be successful in the virtual learning environment while others do not. These disparities directly affect students’ ability to learn. Out-of-school time programs can play an important role in addressing inequality and closing opportunity gaps by providing social and emotional learning, internships, mentorship, and tutors in communities and schools. However, school systems and out-of-school time providers do not effectively coordinate in order to best serve students. What steps would you take to ensure schools collaborate with out-of-school-time programs and keep them in place to serve students?
Currently my platform addresses the need for more internships, mentorships and vocational training. I believe doing this will open the door to reevaluate the graduation requirements and strengthen the importance of out-of-school time. I am worried about the effectiveness of coordination and as a foundation of my platform, I know listening to the voices of our students will be critical to improving the collaboration.
Many District residents are enrolled in public health insurance, but they don't go to the doctor. What policies would you advance to ensure every family has a medical home in their community where they can access preventive and acute health care?
I support the calls of 1199 SEIU to ensure that mental health professionals assigned to DC public schools are DBH or DCPS employees to ensure that students and their families have access to mental health care. I also support bringing DC’s public schools in line with the recommendations of the National Association of School Counselors’s recommendation of 1 counselor for every 250 students.
Many Black and brown immigrant parents have access to healthcare through the DC Healthcare Alliance. However, many report losing coverage due to the requirement to recertify every six months. Losing coverage in the middle of a pandemic can be a matter of life of death. Would you support a 12-month certification for the DC Healthcare Alliance, to align with Medicaid and DC Healthy Families, to ensure more consistent coverage?
Many states across the country, including Maryland, have recently created Children’s Cabinets to coordinate children and youth work across departments and to break down internal silos. The cabinets have created strategic goals to improve child well-being across issue areas. What are your thoughts about steps that DC can take to improve service coordination among departments and improve outcomes for children and youth?
I would support the creation of a Children’s Cabinet here in the District, but without proper oversight I fear that we’d be simply creating a new Deputy Mayor and not actually streamlining the ability of agencies to work together. We saw this with the Deputy Mayor of Greater Economic Opportunity which later turned into the Office of East River Services. Without oversight, I fear a children’s cabinet would run the same course as that role.
We believe that young people play a vital role in our democracy. Recent actions, organizing and protests, led by young people have been critical in advancing political and social change. Many youth leaders are too young to vote, but there is a growing Vote 16 movement. Do you support lowering the voting age to 16?
DC Action for Children believes that in order for our advocacy work to be most effective, it must be centered around the voices of children, youth, and families. This work must go further than just testimonies during DC Council hearings and meetings. In addition to lowering the voting age to 16, what are innovative ways you would involve and elevate the voices of children, youth, and families?
I am an adamant believer that the DC State Board of Education must be more than an advisory body if we are really going to serve on behalf of District children, youth, and families. As a representative, I will call for revisions to the Public Education Reform Act of 2007, which stripped the State Board of any meaningful decision-making power in our education governance structure. I support making the 2 SBOE student representatives full voting members, and will support those representatives be elected by their peers.