NEW Report:
The High Cost of
Unaffordable Child Care

Every child deserves a strong beginning and a limitless future

Early childhood researchers say a child’s first three years will shape their lives. Our District’s early educators and parents agree and we are now organizing to give our city’s youngest residents the best possible start. We’re part of a growing community of health professionals, neighborhood-based organizations, and nonprofit advocacy groups known as Under 3 DC. Together, we are working as a coalition to ensure local elected officials fund the Birth-to-Three For All DC law.

Business voices for the current and future workforce

Business leaders in the District and around the nation, are realizing that a strong education and workforce pipeline, starting at the earliest ages, is essential to promote the lifelong success of District residents, end racial inequities, and generate a thriving economy.


DC is stronger when all children thrive

The coronavirus pandemic shook the District to its core in 2020, but Under 3 DC persisted. The community came together and fought to preserve funding for critical services for children and families. Protecting funding for health and the child care programs was the most important victory. Any loss of child care and any cuts to successful health programs puts the well-being of the District’s youngest children at risk.


DC Announces Free Health Insurance for Child Care Workers and their Families

DC Early Childhood Educators Pay Bonus 2022
Under 3 DC in the News

NPR: Bonus checks! One year free! How states are trying to fix a broken child care system
Press Release

DC Council Votes to Boost Pay of Early Educators

WASHINGTON (June 12, 2024)—”Under 3 DC is grateful to see DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson and DC Councilmembers reverse Mayor Bowser’s elimination of the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund by restoring $70 million in funding to the program for the 2025 fiscal year. The District of Columbia's early learning community is comforted in knowing the DC Council recognizes how vital the program is for child care, and going from zero dollars to where they landed was no small feat, especially in such a challenging budget year. However, some fundamental challenges lie ahead for early childhood educators. Pay cuts are still likely to be on the table, along with a potential pause on HealthCare4ChildCare enrollment this fall because of next year's $17 million funding gap (OSSE will spend $87 million this fiscal year). We look forward to working with members of the DC Council and OSSE in the upcoming months and future budget years to ensure that the Pay Equity Fund is designed, funded, and implemented to meet the needs of our educators and meet the goal of pay parity with DC Public School teachers..

The DC Council-sanctioned Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund Task Force is now responsible for recommending changes to the Fund that will ensure the program is as fair and efficient as possible to reduce spending while minimizing harmful impacts on educator salaries and benefits. 

Not to be forgotten is the Child Care Subsidy program that did not see the DC Council restore the $10 million Mayor Bowser slashed from its budget. In a region where working families from across all income levels depend on child care, this funding reduction will slow the progress the District is making toward ensuring more families have access to high-quality, affordable child care.” 


About Under 3 DC

Under 3 DC harnesses the voices and power of District families with young children, early educators, health professionals and community-based organizations to shine a spotlight on the need for more public investments in early education and health programs for infants and toddlers. Together, we can set the District of Columbia on a path to creating and sustaining a high-quality, equitable early childhood system. For more information, visit

Contact: Tawana Jacobs | | 301-325-8687

Mat Hanson | | 202-725-4769

Gutting subsidies for families and betraying the promise of equal pay for educators will hurt DC's businesses, families, young children and their teachers.

April 3, 2024—Today, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser released her proposed 2025 fiscal year budget that decimates the child care sector with massive, multi-year cuts to subsidies for families, and permanently eliminates the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund and HealthCare4ChildCare. 

Bowser’s budget proposal hurts working families and our local economy. At a time when high-quality child care in the District remains unaffordable and hard to find, as detailed in a Bainum Foundation study  released in February, these cuts will force child development facilities to increase costs for working families.  Another new study showed that lack of affordable care negatively impacts parents' ability to keep gainful employment and businesses' ability to operate.  These effects lead to lower incomes for families, worse productivity for businesses, and decreased tax revenue for the District. Under the current budget, child care challenges for parents of infants and toddlers lead to negative employment impacts that cost DC $8,100 per parent annually, or $252 million aggregated across all similar DC parents. The annual cost to businesses for each parent is $2,540, or $79 million aggregated across DC parents.  

The study also found that more than half of the parents surveyed said the high cost of care would make it harder for them to stay in the District - moving us farther away from the goal of a vibrant DC filled with working families. Early childhood education is an essential part of our economic infrastructure, as important as parks, office space, or retail shops. 

Bowser’s budget proposal hurts early educators, most of whom are Black and brown women. By permanently cutting pay and health benefits for more than 4,000 educators, Bowser will single-handedly be responsible for educators fleeing child care for higher paying jobs. Early educators could see their pay reduced by tens of thousands of dollars, returning many of their incomes to just a few dollars above the minimum wage.  

This is doubly betraying promises that the Mayor and DC Council made to early educators.  It reneges on the commitment in the Birth-to-Three For All DC Act to raise early educator salaries.  And the District required educators to meet new higher credential and degree requirements at the end of last year, which many have worked hard to do - now the Mayor proposes to break the promise of fair pay as compensation.

Quotes from Under 3 DC’s leadership

Tazra Mitchell, DC Fiscal Policy Institute: “The mayor’s budget takes an axe to the transformative investments—like the Pay Equity Fund—that DC has invested in recent years, prioritizing the wealthy business sector and police force over investments in DC residents struggling to get by. Eliminating the Pay Equity Fund and gutting the child care subsidy program will decimate the early education sector. Not only does the Mayor’s approach undermine her purported “economic comeback” vision, it backtracks on DC’s commitment to Black and brown educators fueling a sector that all other business sectors rely on. Her approach will set back the progress that DC has made on poverty reduction, greater economic inclusion, and closing racial and gender disparities that harm us all.”

Jacob Feinspan, Jews United for Justice: “The Thalmud teaches that children breathe life into the universe. To rob children of care – to rob educators of the resources they need to provide that care – would be shameful. The Council must not let the Mayor harm the thousands of working families who rely on these funds.”

Barbara Kamara, DC Early Learning Collaborative:This budget undermines the increases proposed for downtown, sports team retention, the support for Metro and the economic vitality of DC.  Without the early childhood sector, the government and all businesses are all negatively impacted.”

Kimberly Perry, DC Action: “What Mayor Bowser proposed today is devastating to the District’s families with young children. Our local child care sector and its early educator workforce, comprised of mostly Black and brown women, deserve better. How can she prioritize business and economic growth while simultaneously cutting a critical lifeline for working parents– child care.  Current child care challenges cost District businesses nearly $80 million and families $252 million each year. If Bowser truly cares about supporting business and economic growth, this move is misguided and it is imperative that the DC Council reverse this terrible proposal. 

LaDon Love, SPACEs in Action: “The Mayor’s budget is a betrayal of the educators that working families depend on and threatens to wipe out the District’s child care sector. Showering money on billionaires and corporations while increasing costs for working people is both unjust and terrible economic policy.”

The DC Council will hear from the early learning community, business leaders, and DC residents tomorrow, Thursday, April 4, during what is expected to be a marathon education hearing that is scheduled to begin at 9:00 am.  And, an Early Educator Rally will take place on Friday, April 5th at 8:00 AM to call on the DC Council to act immediately to reverse these proposed cuts. 


Under 3 DC harnesses the voices and power of the District’s parents with young children, early educators, and community-based organizations to shine a spotlight on the need for more public investments in early education and health programs for infants and toddlers. Together, we can set the District of Columbia on a path to creating and sustaining a high-quality, equitable early childhood system.

Your voice matters. Your story matters.

Under 3 DC

Join our expanding umbrella of parents and educators. We’re fighting to make sure early childhood education and health programs remain a priority as the city recovers from the pandemic.

Child care is essential and accessible early childhood programs benefit all

The District’s economy won’t recover if we don’t close the gaps in access, affordability, and quality of child care. We believe that making child care more affordable for everyone is one way to solve this problem. This position calls on policymakers to increase the Child Care Subsidy it pays child care centers and homes to cover the cost of educating lower-income children, including raising pay for early educators.

The health and education programs that serve young children and families are hard to navigate and hard to find. Many families are unaware of their existence. Under 3 DC wants to fix this by advocating for proper funding. Healthy Futures, Healthy Steps, Help Me Grow, and the Lactation programs are evidence-based, early childhood programs that support young children’s social and emotional development and their caregivers–parents and early educators.
Child Care Subsidies
Healthy Futures
Help Me Grow
Home Visiting
Lactation Certification

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