Preschool teachers Donovan Holly and Regina Marr engage in some songs with the young learners at the Community Educational Research Group in Northeast. (Ja’Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)
Preschool teachers Donovan Holly and Regina Marr engage in some songs with the young learners at the Community Educational Research Group in Northeast. (Ja’Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)

The D.C. Council recently approved bonuses for early childhood educators in the amount of $10,000 to $14,000. This development unfolded weeks after a task force presented recommendations for increasing early childhood worker compensation.

Throughout much of last year’s budget season, early childcare workers pressed their elected officials for a pay increase, explaining the importance of their role and recounting the difficulties they faced educating the District’s youngest residents throughout the pandemic.  

For Regina Marr, an early childcare professional of 22 years, the issue has become a matter of how to live in her hometown comfortably and permanently. The mother of four said acquiring safe housing has become of paramount importance. That’s why she plans on using her money to place a down payment on the home of her dreams. 

“To this day, the money situation has not been good [because] I can’t afford assistance. The government says I make too much but I still need food stamps,” Marr said. “I’m in that bracket where [I have to] figure out what to do. I learned how to deal with it through budgeting. I also had a part-time job but stopped that [so I wouldn’t] neglect my children. It’s been a struggle with a lot of sacrifice.” 

In January, the D.C. Council gave the Early Childhood Educator Equitable Compensation Task Force until April to hammer out the details of a compensation system that raises the pay of early childhood educators in accordance with their role, credentials and on-the-job experience. 

A total of $120 million has been budgeted toward this cause over the next two years. The recent bonus precedes the pay bump expected to go in effect in the fall. 

Early childhood educator Maleka Kamara-Walls extolled the D.C. Council, particularly D.C. Council members Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) and Trayon White (D-Ward 8) for their efforts. As a professional who holds a bachelor’s degree, Kamara-Walls said she often laments making less than her counterparts in K-12 education. 

Kamara-Walls, who will soon celebrate her 25th year in her career field, spent years acquiring her associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. When she started working full-time in the 1990s, she started at minimum wage. Though her compensation has increased incrementally, Kamara-Walls said it hasn’t sufficed, especially without the benefits that K-12 teachers receive. 

“It was important for the D.C. Council to pass this bill and look at us as teachers, not just babysitters,” she said. “I look forward to coming in every day and giving children what they need.”

“During the pandemic, we followed the guidelines and [conducted] online learning. We made sure that there was communication with parents. I believe that a salary increase and loan forgiveness for early childhood educators and teachers could help,” she said.  

Data shows that the base salary of an early childhood educator in the District stands at $36,700, or $19 per hour. The Early Childhood Educator Equitable Compensation Task Force has been working in conjunction with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education [OSSE] on not only the creation of a pay scale that compensates teachers based on experience but program oversight that holds the District accountable to early childhood educators. 

In the midst of all the excitement about the pay bonus on February 1, Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen, director of the Under 3 DC Coalition and task force member, reiterated the latter point. 

“It is now up to OSSE to ensure educators receive their supplemental pay by the end of this fiscal budget year [on] September 31,” Anbar-Shaheen said. “Our coalition hopes OSSE will prioritize paying educators this year. Educators will need generous assistance to help them apply for the supplemental pay and understand, in their preferred language, how the salary boost could impact their benefits and taxes.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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2 Comments

  1. Yes I agree with this article wholeheartedly. I’ve worked in the Child Care field over 30 years or more and the pay still does not match my credentials or a licensed teacher pay. OSSE requires Child Care teachers to do basically the same things, plus acquire a degree to only have to get paid low wages. We want to be able to live in safe neighborhoods as well as send our children to great school also, but with the low salaries we just can’t afford to. Most Child Care workers can not even afford to send their own children to the centers they work in.

  2. Who do I contact to find out if I got the bonus money for a child care provider.

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