D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser hit the streets Thursday to build support for the $17.5 billion budget she submitted to the D.C. Council this week. The budget includes a proposed investment of nearly $200 million for early childhood learning.
Coming out of the pandemic, the District finds itself in a much better fiscal position than many jurisdictions. And, as many people are heading back to the workplace, the need for affordable, good-quality child care will be growing.
Child care and preschool have always been in high demand in the District.
Just ask Marisa Gruber, whose young daughter was one of the lucky ones to get accepted into Stevens Early Learning Center, which offers programs for children from six weeks old up to preschool age.
"The cost of living is pretty high in D.C., so having just affordable and just so wonderful and talented educational institutions available is so fantastic, and we feel so fortunate we were able to get into the Stevens Early Learning Center and that my daughter is able to attend," Gruber said.
On Thursday, Bowser spent time at Stevens to highlight her proposed budget, which includes $184 million for child care and early learning.
"These investments will help us retain childcare workers, mitigate losses that we suffered during the pandemic of spots and workers, and preserve the number of seats available to families," Bowser said.
Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn said the funds would be spent in three main areas.
"Through the course of the pandemic, the economics of all facilities have actually been turned on their head, so we're providing lots of funding through the centers to ensure they can stay afloat," he said.
Kihn also said, "We're providing money to centers to build capacity where we know we’ll need it as the city reopens ... We're providing scholarships for credentialing for our child care workers, and we're providing retention bonuses to ensure that the critical child care staff that we need are going to be in place."
The budget is now in the hands of the D.C. Council.
Gruber knows how she wants them to vote.
"Please fund more institutions like Stevens. It's really just such a phenomenal, wonderful thing," Gruber said. "Early childhood education is so important."