Access to high-quality, affordable early childcare and learning is a growing priority for families in the District, especially as the number of residents with young children continues to rise. While DC has become a national leader in Pre-K3 and Pre-K4 programs, we have not kept pace on funding for the care and education of children from birth to age 3. We must invest more in our community-based child development centers and homes as a downpayment on the future for the children of the District.
DC's child development centers and homes are struggling financially as they also try to compete with Local Education Agencies (LEAs) for recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers and staff. The government’s financial support for child care has not grown with need, and as a result, there is a shrinking number of available child care slots at increasing cost.
I support the Birth-to-Three initiative and believe more funding is necessary to fulfill its goals. While at the Council, I was proud to work on legislation to try to bring equity in funding by providing community-based organizations serving Pre-K students access to at-risk funding provided to LEAs. There is so much more DC government could be doing to increase quality, increase access, and bring down the costs. If elected, this would be my priority.
I have dedicated my career to creating better access to and equity in educational opportunity for students in DC and nationwide. After more than a decade of work on these issues, I understand the modern demands and challenges of public education. But at the end of the day, I know most parents care about three critical things:
Despite hard-fought gains for DC students over the last decade, we know there are too many families in the District for whom the answers to these three questions are not “yes.” And that is unacceptable.
We must ensure our kids can make it to and from school safely and we must continue to invest in targeted strategies. This is the bare minimum. I believe DC needs to be more intentional and transparent in terms of school budgeting, school facilities and overall planning. This includes producing a real Master Facilities Plan and effectively implementing the PACE Act. We must hold both DCPS and public charter schools accountable for student success and outcomes. And I support the right of educators and school leaders to collectively bargain for better pay, better working conditions, and a fair performance evaluation system.
Our commitment on education should not end when students graduate high school. For better or worse, a post-secondary credential has become the new high school diploma. The Council needs to be more of a strategic partner in ensuring the success and longevity of the University of the District of Columbia, which also includes the community college. Local institutions and community colleges are essential to providing access to higher education and training for anyone who desires it, growing the local economy, and helping to curb income inequality.
DC is only 69 square miles, but the inequities across the city are stark. DC residents can be proud of the city’s growth and development in the last 15 years, but should be dismayed that DC government has not used all the tools at its disposal to ensure progress happens everywhere, and that residents who have lived in DC for decades can afford to stay, raise their families, and retire with dignity.
For example, after almost 20 years of offering the supermarket tax incentive, which was intended to encourage investment and development in neighborhoods lacking access to grocery stores, there are still only 3 supermarkets serving over 160,000 residents in Wards 7 and 8. The Council is overdue to amend this law. We need a new incentive more targeted to high need areas, with more attractive terms to draw supermarket operators to those areas.
Part of equitable growth is ensuring all neighborhoods have functioning infrastructure, safe and maintained green space, and access to reliable public transportation and alternative methods of travel. Our affordable housing stock must be more diverse in terms of location and giving families options with more three-bedroom units. I support the Housing Production Trust Fund and believe the staff who manages the Fund needs more resources and support to manage projects, loans, and grants. I believe we need to reexamine the practice of allowing housing developers who receive tax incentives deliver their affordable unit commitments “off-site,” which has exacerbated the issue of our affordable housing being concentrated in one area of the city.
Lastly, we must support our neighbors experiencing a housing emergency. We must continue making investments so residents can stay where they are as housing costs increase, be connected to emergency rental supports and case management, and have access to a safe place to be if they have nowhere else to go.
DC has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country -- a rate double the national average -- and yet there is not a full-service hospital east of North Capitol Street providing obstetrics care. This is putting the health of mothers and children at risk, and has led to longer wait times and overcrowding at other area hospitals. I experienced this first-hand when I was in active labor with my daughter and had to be routed to a new hospital due to space constraints.
I support the opening of the new hospital at St. Elizabeth’s and know consistent oversight will be necessary to ensure the project is completed on time and on budget. I also believe the Council should explore methods to fill the gap in services before 2022. Additionally, it is also imperative DC government expand the Health Professional Loan Repayment program to incentivize more general practitioners and pediatricians to locate in DC.
If there is one thing that every DC resident wants, its to live in a safe community. I know there is no one single remedy to solving this problem, and that our solutions must be data-driven, comprehensive, and looking to address the root causes. This means that all parts of the government from education to healthcare to housing have to be working together on this.
Recognizing how the school-to-prison pipeline has disadvantaged so many children in our city, I have supported efforts to reduce the use of onerous and unnecessary disciplinary measures in our school system. Additionally, I believe we must continue, and ultimately expand, funding for community-based organizations that are working with residents to reduce violence in our city. Proactively addressing conflicts before they result in violence not only keeps our communities safer, it minimizes interactions between vulnerable communities and law enforcement.
A democracy can only work when the people have trust in the officials they have chosen to represent them. To serve in elected office and work in government on behalf of the people is a privilege, and the people will always be my priority.
My campaign has chosen to use the city’s new public financing program. I made this decision because I believe we have to get big money out of city politics. When I worked at the Council, my former boss understood that Constituent Services Funds do not always serve those who are in most need or even the intended recipients—everyday constituents in our city. Our office was able to serve District residents without a Constituent Services Fund and I will continue that practice as a Councilmember.