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WASHINGTON, DC- APRIL 03: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a press conference after testifying for hours before the DC City Council outlining the Fiscal Year 2025 Budget in Washington, D.C., on April 3, 2024. | Source: The Washington Post / Getty

On Monday, parents and child care providers will participate in a coast-to-coast Day Without Child Care. Sponsored by Community Change, the event will promote stable funding for the child care sector, competitive wages for child care providers and care that is more accessible to families. Regardless of whether you are a parent or caregiver, you should be tuned into this and related events as child care is everyone’s business.

Without stable funding for child care, centers struggle to attract and retain educators, families struggle to afford care and businesses struggle to keep their shops running. Every community needs accessible, affordable child care. Our cities and regions cannot run without it.

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I’ve shouted this from the rooftops. And child care educators have been shouting as well. However, in Washington, D.C., our cries are being ignored. While D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser initially promised child care workers that if they went back to school, she would raise their wages, she has not kept her promise. Instead of investing in the workforce behind the workforce, Bowser has engineered one tax break for billionaires after another. Now she has put forth a budget that is an all-out assault on children, families and child care providers.

Instead of building on the success of programs like the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund, Healthcare for Child Care, or the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Mayor’s proposed 2025 budget recommends cutting those programs and showering wealthy investors and corporations with tax credits and subsidies. While the Mayor has spoken against raising taxes on the District of Columbia’s wealthiest residents, she is planning to raise taxes on those who can least afford it, cancel the scheduled expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and raise sales and payroll taxes. There is no scenario where her proposed budget is just and fair for the child care ecosystem; the people who make our region run.

Despite the intensive skills and education required to provide child care with high-quality, child care providers are among the lowest-paid workers in the country. The Pay Equity Fund addressed this issue by providing childcare programs throughout D.C. with funding to increase the salaries of their workers. In its first two years, the fund disbursed $70 million, which supported over 4,000 childcare providers in D.C. The Pay Equity Fund and Healthcare4Childcare programs must be fully funded in next year’s budget.

I want to be clear that this is not a zero-sum game. You can make investments that make a region attractive without shortchanging children, child care educators or families. In fact, the best way to boost a city’s attractiveness is by ensuring a strong child care system that sees and meets the needs of families and the workforce. When you do this, you signal to employers that a city has the structural support to care for its employees.

This whole issue is maddening. Bowser and her comrades have sacrificed children when they didn’t need to. They are also attempting to cure a budget deficit on the backs of Black and Brown parents. For instance, the Mayor has proposed a sales tax increase, a stance my organization – SPACEs in Action, along with other anti-poverty and child advocates – strongly opposes. Sales tax increases will decrease the amount of disposable income available to families who are low-income or living in poverty. We want families to move up the socio-economic ladder, not whittle away their already limited resources. The goal should be helping families move from surviving to thriving and that cannot happen without progressive tax policies.

There was a time when the District of Columbia was a leader in funding child care. Maryland and Virginia took action to increase funding for child care after D.C. did so. If Bowser continues backtracking on child care, a couple of things will happen. First, the backsliding may adversely impact the whole area with Maryland and Virginia taking steps to undermine the social safety net for children and families in their respective states. But we could also lose child care workers, who might flee to other parts of the DMV (D.C., Maryland and Virginia) in search of higher wages, better benefits and an overall stronger compensation plan.

There is no other way to say it: Divesting from child care is bad for families, bad for child care providers, bad for communities, bad for business and bad for the economy. It is just bad.

As advocates, we have a responsibility to ensure that the rolling back of child care funding doesn’t happen under the cover of night. That’s why we have released a commercial on WHUR and held a banner drop.

Last Friday, we continued our push and visited the Wilson Building, which houses the Executive Office of the Mayor and the Council of the District of Columbia, to tell our stories and rally with our allies.

On Monday, the National Day Without Child Care, we will take parents, child care providers, early childhood educators, and their children to the Wilson Building to meet with and have fun showing the city council what it means to create a child-centered nurturing learning environment. We will have live music by the Too Much Talent Band; there is no movement without Go-Go music in D.C. The city’s providers and parents will direct and share their passionate demands for better funding for child care. If Mayor Bowser and her allies want to divest resources from child care and families, they must explain their actions to the people who put them in office.

Our economy relies on the people who live and work in the District of Columbia. If they are unable to thrive, none of us can. But, for them to thrive, we must maintain what works and expand programs that we know will keep families and communities afloat. That means building a tax system that sees the wealthiest households and businesses paying their fair share, rather than attempting to balance the budget on the backs of persons most in need of support.

Mayor Bowser knows the difference between right and wrong. The question is: Does she have the will to do what we all know is right?

LaDon Love is the executive director of SPACEs in Action.


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