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2023 OSSE Annual Report: Start Early

As a national leader in early childhood education, the District of Columbia continues to drive innovation for DC’s youngest learners and the thousands of educators who teach and nurture them each day. OSSE is elevating the early learning workforce and making the District the best place in the country to be an early educator. We made great progress toward this goal in 2023 through new and existing work.

Setting the Standard and Raising the Bar
The District of Columbia sets high standards for early childhood educators in licensed child development facilities. These standards help ensure that all staff have the knowledge and skills to support children’s learning and development and feel successful and supported in their roles. OSSE provides support to early childhood educators to complete required degrees and credentials at low or no cost. OSSE currently partners with the Southeast Children’s Fund (SCF) and CentroNia to implement the Child Development Associate® (CDA) Training and Preparation Program, which offers in-person and hybrid training to the DC early childhood workforce at no cost. Classes are offered in English, Spanish and Amharic, and SCF and CentroNia offer ongoing support to early childhood educators to complete each step of the credential process. In FY23, more than 300 District child care educators completed CDA® coursework for free with support from OSSE.

Additionally, more than 500 early childhood educators have been accepted into the DC LEAD scholarship program which provides scholarships and incentives to DC child care educators to complete coursework toward an associate and/or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

Increasing Compensation for Early Educators
OSSE launched the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund, the first program of its kind in the nation. The fund aims to create pay parity between early educators and their K-12 colleagues, and to attract, retain and support skilled, passionate, and nurturing early educators.

In FY23, OSSE distributed nearly $42 million in Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Funds (quarterly payments of $2,5000 and $3,500) to more than 4,044 educators. OSSE also put in place policies, systems, and infrastructure for the next phase of the program, in which child development facilities will receive funding from OSSE to sustainably and permanently increase staff pay.

Fair compensation is more than just money. Early educators who care for our youngest learners deserve to have their health cared for as well. Through HealthCare4ChildCare, an innovative partnership with DC Health Benefits Exchange Authority, OSSE subsidized health insurance premiums for child care employers who provide coverage for their staff, as well as DC residents working in child care, enabling child care workers to get health coverage at no cost to themselves. As of October 2023, 169 child care facilities, nearly 40 percent of DC’s child care providers, are participating in the program to provide coverage to their employees. Nearly 1,200 early educators are covered through this program, and more than 40 percent of them did not previously have health insurance.

Expanding Access to Affordable Child Care
In 2023, OSSE expanded eligibility to child care subsidies to include families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (up from 250 percent previously), meaning a family of four with income up to $90,000 now qualifies for subsidy. As a result of this expansion, 5,200 children ages 0-13 became newly income-eligible for subsidies. In addition, OSSE increased child care subsidy payment rates to help child care businesses cover increasing costs due to inflation and attract more child care providers into the subsidy program to expand access for participating families. Finally, OSSE developed and launched an online family application portal for child care subsidies to streamline the process for families to receive subsidies.

Through substantial investments and unwavering dedication, DC is spearheading a transformative journey in early childhood education – a critical piece of DC’s pandemic recovery. Fueled by monumental commitments, we are not just building momentum; we are forging a legacy of progress. Our vision is bold—to establish the nation’s premier early childhood education system for educators, children and families alike.