DC Mayor Closing Low-Income Child Care Centers

By Leticia Miranda Sep 19, 2009

The equation seems simple. working parents – child care center = parent can’t work bad economy + parent not working = even worse economy But for DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, this doesn’t seem to make sense. Fenty’s 2010 budget eliminated funding for the DC Department of Parks and Recreation’s Early Childhood and Out of School Time programs in Wards 6, 7 and 8, some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Instead, he’s pushing for privatization of child care in DC. Since the mayor has been in office, roughly $22 million has been cut from the child care budget and funneled towards more important things like a new dog park. Now, he’s saying there’s absolutely no room in the budget for federally funded child care centers that serve low-income parents. And for these parents, many of whom are just getting off of public assistance and getting back to work, this is what they’d call an E-M-E-R-G-E-N-C-Y. Already, 160 DPR employees have been laid off while hundreds of parents are struggling to find child care that is accessible and, for parents who have disabled children, meets the needs of their kids. MyFOX DC reported in late August:

Robin McKinney hasn’t been able to work in weeks. She has no one to watch her 2-year old daughter, Vegas. She says, "It hurts me tremendously to know that child care is holding me back from going back to work." The D.C. school bus driver counted on the daycare services at Malcolm X Elementary in South East. Now the center and dozens more are being shut down. Darlene Williams has worked with DPR as a child care provider for more than 10-years. She says she was suddenly let go and has not been paid. She blames the mayor. She says, "It is a mess and Mayor Fenty made the mess."

Lucky for Mayor Fenton, DC parents and organizers like Empowered D.C are around to help spell it all out for him. At the end of July, parents, organizers and community members met at an emergency summit meeting to talk about the cuts and think about different ways to confront the mayor about his weak budget priorities. You can watch video of the summit here. The Mayor and DPR Director, Ximena Hartsock, were asked to come but failed to show up. Since the mayor announced his proposed budget, Ward 5 Councilmember, Harry Thomas, pushed through emergency legislation that required Fenty and DPR director, Ximena Hartsock, to answer why these cuts are necessary. After failing to attend the summit, both the mayor and director have yet to answer to Thomas and the community about what exactly the city is losing by cutting child care centers. Not lookin good, Fenty! And the DPR employees union lawsuit isn’t helping him out either. Empower D.C. and parents who are affected by the closures are trying to fight the mayor in closing down all the centers by next Friday Sept. 25. You can check out their website www.empowerdc.org for more info and to find out how to make a simple equation make sense to the DC mayor.