Good morning/afternoon. My name is Mariah Cowsert. I am a resident of Ward 6 and I am testifying today on behalf of Jews United for Justice. JUFJ is a DC-based organization that represents thousands of people in the local Jewish community who are committed to acting for social, racial and economic justice. We are part of a coalition of individuals and organizations committed to transforming how DC invests in infants, toddlers, and families from before birth through age three.
Today, I am asking the council to do everything in your reach to allocate the additional $25 million needed to fully fund Birth to Three for All in the FY2020 budget. I am focusing my testimony on the importance of funding education for infant and toddlers. This includes full support of the educators and caregivers who are responsible for shaping the critical, early years of our youth.
The costs of child care in DC are the highest in the country yet educators who work with infants and toddlers are among the lowest paid workers in the District. Funding the Birth to Three For All DC Act would help bridge gaps in economic inequalities in the District for not only the young children and families it centers but for the workers it strengthens resources and salaries for. Investing time and money in our educators is an investment in the livelihood of our communities. Turnover rates are high in this field but with funding, support, and quality accessible preparation for the job; workers can thrive and children can flourish.
I work at a small social service non-profit that works to end and prevent homelessness in the District. One of our regular clients who helps lead the expressive arts group with me during our women’s program is a retired DCPS school teacher and a fabulous storyteller. Last week, when we were chatting about current local happenings she was excited to hear about Birth to Three for All and shared that this is a long needed support system in DC. Our communities are listening and looking to the Council for leadership on this critical initiative.
I believe that funding the Birth to Three for All DC Act is an opportunity to generate change in the systems in place that set back low income families and families experiencing homelessness in DC—families who face high rates of financial and systemic barriers to success.
Birth to Three is a huge and worthwhile investment in the health of our community as we cannot be a nurturing environment to grow unless equitable measures are in place, and funded, to cultivate growth for ALL families in the District.
I urge the council to invest in the District’s young children, their families, and the educators and caretakers who help shape our communities by allocating the additional $25 million needed in the FY 2020 budget to fully fund the Birth to Three for All DC Act. Thank you.