By Natasha Riddle Romero
The fight for more funding for child care has been long and exhausting for the fierce educators and advocates who care about making DC’s early education system more accessible and just. During the recent budget season, many Spanish-language educators juggled their 12-hour schedules, parenting, college classes, and learning the ropes of advocacy for the first time. They participated in DC Council oversight and budget hearings, meetings with councilmembers, and in-person actions in record-high numbers.
What was different this year? The impact of COVID. So many were laid off during the pandemic, and providers struggled to keep programs open.
Spanish-language educators have supported the goals of Under 3 DC–full implementation of Birth-to-Three for All DC– despite knowing that language access resources were not yet fully available. They pushed us to make the campaign more accessible to fill in some gaps left open by the DC government in the early childhood education space. This inclusion enabled Spanish speakers to lend their voice to the budget process and secure a win for themselves, their neighbors, and their communities.
These efforts culminated in a small but mighty car “Care-A-Van” that traveled around DC to thank members of the DC Council for their continued support of the early education community. Members of the Multicultural Spanish Speaking Providers Association (MSSPA) joined DC Family Child Care Association members in encouraging DC Councilmembers Christina Henderson, Robert White, and Janesse Lewis George to become child care champions by supporting a small tax increase on the wealthy during a budget vote.
Thankfully, our extra attention and encouragement paid off!
Besides the positive effect our action had on the hearts and minds of policymakers, it was also a lot of fun. We decorated our cars, honked our way through Ward 4, and made some noise for early education.
It was also an excellent opportunity for stakeholders to finally meet each other in person after more than a year of online meetings. It was a success for everyone all around, but the biggest winners were the educators who will be seeing increased compensation in the near future. We look forward to doing more actions like this in the future and pushing the DC government to make intentional decisions about the future of DC’s child care sector.