Testimony of Katie Kerstetter, Policy Analyst, at the Public Hearing on the FY 2010 Budget Request for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, District of Columbia Committee of the Whole

Good afternoon, Chairman Gray and members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Katie Kerstetter, and I am a Policy Analyst with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. DCFPI engages in research and public education on the fiscal and economic health of the District of Columbia, with particular emphasis on policies that affect low- and moderate-income residents.

I am here today to share our questions and concerns with the Mayor’s proposed FY 2010 budget for early care and education. Early education and child care services are provided in the District through two main sources. The Early Care and Education Administration (ECEA) funds and facilitates early child care and education services for children from birth through 12 years of age, and to age 19 for those with disabilities.[1] These programs are supported with both local and federal funds and primarily support child care subsidies for low- and moderate-income families. ECEA also supports out-of-school time programs. In addition to ECEA, the District began implementing a universal Pre-K effort in FY 2009, with the goal of achieving access to pre-K education for all young children in the District over five years.

Decrease in Funding for the Early Care and Education Administration

The proposed FY 2010 budget for services provided by ECEA is $89 million. This includes $39 million in local funds and $51 million in federal funds, including the federal child care block grant and federal TANF funds.[2] According to the budget, this also includes $1.3 million in federal stimulus funds for the child care block grant.

The proposed funding level represents a decrease of $4.5 million or 4.8 percent, from the final FY 2009 budget when adjusted for inflation. It is worth noting that the FY 2009 child care budget was reduced in the middle of the fiscal year. When the proposed funding level for FY 2010 is compared with the original FY 2009 budget, the reduction is nearly $12 million after adjusting for inflation. Funding for child care in the District has been falling since FY 2007. The decline totals $22 million, or 20 percent, after adjusting for inflation.

The impact of these reductions is not entirely clear. According to OSSE, the number of children that will be served in the District’s child care programs – which include a child care voucher program, the DC Public School After School for All program, and other smaller programs – will be 21,100 in 2009. This is 1,300, or 6 percent, lower than the 22,400 children served in FY 2007. Figures are not available on the number of children that are expected to be served in FY 2010. However, the available data suggest that funding reductions have resulted in a program cuts.

Decline in Pre-K for All Funding

The DC Council passed legislation in 2008 to make preschool programs available to all DC children by 2014. The FY 2009 budget included $9.5 million in local funding to begin implementing the Pre-K for All initiative. The expansion plan called for an increase of at least 15 percent in the number of children enrolled in a Pre-K program under this initiative in FY 2010.[3] However, the Pre-K for All budget was reduced by about $3 million in the middle of FY 2009, and the Mayor’s proposed budget for FY 2010 includes only $5.1 million for the initiative in FY 2010. This is unlikely to support any expansion.

Lack of Transparency in FY 2010 Early Care and Education Budget

When child care programs were administered by the Department of Human Services, Early Childhood Development was listed in the budget as a program comprising six activities.[4] Under OSSE, child care is listed as two activities under a larger program – the Teaching and Learning program. This means that detail on spending for each of the six child care activities is no longer available. Given the apparent cut in funding, it is important that providers, advocates, and other members of the public are able to understand where funding is being reduced and what impact this will have on programs and services.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

[1]Until FY 2009, this program was called the Early Childhood Development program and was housed in the Department of Human Services (DHS). In fiscal year 2009, administration for this program, as well as funding, was transferred to the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE).

[2] These figures include proposed funding for the “early care and education administration” and the “childcare program development” lines in the OSSE “Teaching and Learning” program area.

[3] Pre-K for All DC, “Pre-K Enhancement and Expansion Act of 2008: Overview,” May 2008, http://www.prekforalldc.org/storage/prekforalldc/documents/prek_legbrief_forweb.pdf.

[4] These activities included Eligibility Re-determination Services, Child Care Services, Child Development Provider Services, Early Intervention Services, Case Management Services, and Quality Assurance.