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District of Columbia

Our lead allies in the District, Educare DC and DC Action, lead key early childhood coalitions and work in tandem to advocate for the DC Council to fund its signature Birth to Three early childhood initiative and improve compensation for the early childhood workforce in the District. As a direct service provider, Educare DC is able to provide on-the-ground insight into how policies impact individual children and families. They use their voice and the power of the network of Educare schools to advocate for quality early care and education. DC Action uses research, data, and a racial equity lens to break down barriers that stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential. Together with our young people, parents and community partners, DC Action advocates for public policies that support kids at every step from early childhood to early adulthood.

2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Steady

For the last four years for which there is high-confidence data, 39-40 percent (27,000 – 29,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (2021).1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and/or Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

On July 10, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the fiscal 2024 budget, which provides $19.8 billion in total funds, a decrease of $156.3 million, or 0.8 percent, compared to fiscal 2023. The local funds portion of the budget is $10.7 billion, a decrease of $70.2 million, or 0.7 percent, from fiscal 2023. General fund revenues in the budget are forecast at $11.03 billion, an increase of 2.9 percent over the fiscal 2023 approved amount. The local fund revenues, a component of the general fund, are estimated at $9.7 billion in fiscal 2024. The general fund ending balance is projected to be $3.6 billion in fiscal 2024.3

Largest Per Capita Revenue Sources (after federal transfers) (FY 2021):4

    • Property Taxes: $4,497 per capita
    • Individual Income Taxes: $3,952 per capita

Permanent State Funding Stream Dedicated to Early Childhood: Yes

The District of Columbia has a wealth tax, the proceeds of which must be allocated to the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund. The Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund is a first-in-the-nation program aimed at achieving pay parity between early childhood educators and their K-12 counterparts.

Political Alignment: Aligned Democrat

During 2023, the District Council was Democrat controlled. The District Mayor was also a Democrat.5

Types of Common Ballot Measures Available:6  Four

    • Council-Initiated Initiatives
    • Voter-Initiated Initiatives
    • Council-Initiated Referenda
    • Voter-Initiated Referenda

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:7

2023 Policy Progress:

The implementation of DC’s landmark Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund continued to be the top early childhood policy story in 2023. The DC Council cut $5.4 million from the Pay Equity Fund in its Fiscal Year 2024 budget to “right size” the program. OSSE unveiled its payroll funding formula which will calculate how much child development facilities will receive to implement the new salary scale in FY24 and beyond. The formula does not include teacher experience, as required by law. 

Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:8

As directed by the Birth-to-Three for All DC law, the budget extended eligibility for the child care subsidy program to households with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level. This is estimated to make child care more affordable for an additional 2,100 children in DC, including 390 children under age 3.

The DC Council invested an additional $300,000 for the Child and Family Services Agency’s home visiting programs in the FY24 budget and will be used to raise home visitor salaries and better support pregnant people and families with young children.

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) added a supplement to its payroll funding formula for the Pay Equity Fund to help facilities meet the minimum salary requirements that go into effect in January 2024. Childcare providers forecasted what they expected to receive from OSSE using the funding formula it unveiled in the spring and shared with OSS that it would not be enough to meet the minimum salaries of the new pay scale. The supplement will be an additional 30% of the base award, administrative enhancement, and equity adjustment. OSSE has said that this is only for FY24 and will be engaging stakeholders to develop a permanent solution.

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) increased child care subsidy reimbursement rates for providers across quality designations (Developing, Progressing, Quality, High-Quality) to ensure that all providers can cover the true cost of care. The increases were more significant for Developing and Progressing providers to help them raise quality, but maintained higher rates for Quality and High-Quality programs to incentivize providers to improve quality.


Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s lead grantees in District of Columbia, DC Action for Children & Educare DC, are working to advance early childhood policies in several areas that align with the Alliance’s birth-through-eight policy framework

Early Care and Education

Child Care

Child Care Workforce

Preschool and Pre-K

Child and
Maternal Health

Infant & Child Health

Maternal Health

Early Intervention (Age 0-3)


Family Economic Security

Home Visiting

Early Childhood Infrastructure

Early Childhood Governance

Click here for more information on advocates’ policy agenda.



1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budgets, October 11, 2023.

4 Urban Institute, State Fiscal Briefs, July 2023

5 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

6 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

7 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

8 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:

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District of Columbia
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More State Demographic Data:

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District of Columbia