Early Little one Care Advocates Manage for Better Help, Employees Compensation

Returning to normal after the pandemic will depend in part on maintaining a dynamic workforce, especially those who take on hospitality and service jobs in the evenings. Many of these employees are parents who are very likely to seek appropriate childcare.

In response to this urgent need, Bright Beginnings, an early childhood and family education facility for children and families with residential instability, has sought to launch programs for infants and young children that run throughout the evening and well into the night.

Plans for two classrooms are currently in the works.

Without sufficient funding, however, it would not be possible to fully staff the Southeast facility at this time. “Having plenty of options is essential for people to feed their families and get back to work,” said Dr. Marla Dean, Executive Director of Bright Beginnings.

Dean was recently part of a group of early childhood care providers who spoke to DC Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) about the state of the industry in Ward 8 during a virtual town hall.

This more than an hour-long event on June 16 took place during a budget season when many vendors, including Dean, are calling for full funding of the Three Births for All DC Act that allows early childhood care facilities to adequately staff their facilities .

While other childcare facilities struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic, Dean appealed to their donor base and raised more than $ 3.5 million in funding to continue providing free childcare and all-round services to families. These funds have also enabled Bright Beginnings to increase its employees’ annual salaries by $ 20,000.

Achieving Bright Beginnings’ goal of opening classrooms in the evenings would require additional funding for staff, safety and amenities appropriate to the children during the day.

“Ideally we want 13 classrooms for evening care if we could, but we’re not going to jump out and occupy those classrooms because we can’t afford it and it takes time to see if it’s economically viable,” said Dean Der Informant.

“The regulatory environment is complicated, so childcare costs are increasing. You need someone to make sure you keep up, but there are no dollars for that. “


The data shows that the average early childhood educator salary in the district is less than $ 36,000 per year, or $ 17.64 per hour.

During the pandemic, many of the more than 400 early childhood care facilities in the district faced financial ruin, due in part to the policy of the State School Supervisory Authority (OSSE), which granted grants based on attendance instead of enrollment.

Proponents said this agreement proved detrimental to fully occupied childcare facilities that operate a hybrid model.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2022, released in late May, includes a $ 6 million pilot program that will deliver up to $ 1,500 in bonuses for educators in the next fiscal year and the next fiscal year Daycare would provide those who would stay in the job or do an apprenticeship certification over the course of a year. The budget also includes a $ 10 million temporary investment in the childcare program, but it remains unclear whether this would go straight into compensation.

However, such allocations are insufficient for members of the DC Under 3 Coalition, a group committed to fully funding the Birth to Three All DC Act, which the DC Council approved in 2018.

A provision of the law that has recently caught the coalition’s attention concerns compensation for early childhood educators and a study that the OSSE would conduct to establish a system where educators are based on their level of education, qualifications and experience receive adequate compensation.

That part of the law would cost $ 60 million.

“When you think about the budget, [we would like all council members] to think of their constituents who are childcare workers or families in need of childcare, ”said Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen, early childhood policy director for DC Action and head of the DC Under 3 Coalition.

“We know that childcare is an economic force in the district. It helps children lay the foundations they need from an early age, ”Anbar-Shaheen continued. “Councilor White has shown that he understands the value of childcare in his community. We hope that this leads to an investment in the budget. “


Some southeast-based long-time business owners, like Bridget Hall of Big Mama’s Children’s Center, said they would benefit from the DC Council allocation of funds to help daycare centers better reward their employees.

Hall, whose mother opened Big Mama’s Children Center nearly 40 years ago, said she struggled to attract and retain top talent without a competitive benefits package. In the age of COVID-19, regulatory compliance and payroll has become a huge endeavor, especially after spending money on cleaning supplies and staff and creating care packages for affected families.

Despite all efforts and a grant from OSSE, Hall could not prevent two employees from looking for a job elsewhere. She told The Informer that this setback is jeopardizing her ability to help families who might turn to Big Mama’s Children’s Center for safe and reliable childcare after the pandemic.

“The funding would benefit us in that we support our employees and give them what they deserve,” said Hall.

“Our employees are our heroes. You didn’t have to come back. You’ve been working in the trenches since day 1. They clean up twice a day, so they’re our first line of defense. “

Photo by Sam PK Collins

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