Washington, DC – Last week, Councilmember Christina Henderson introduced three bills that would increase financial assistance for students, educators, and foster youth.
Alleviating the financial burden for educators in the city
Councilmember Henderson introduced the Student Loan Repayment Assistance for Educators Act of 2023. This legislation would create a loan repayment program for educators who earn $75,000 or less, have their loans enrolled in a federal income-driven repayment plan, and live in the District.
“As student loan payments resume this month, we must look at ways to address the financial stress of educators,” said Councilmember Henderson. “To advance the District’s goal of attracting qualified and passionate educators to teach in our schools, the Council must address the financial equity gaps that educators face in order to obtain the credentials required to teach our students,” Henderson continued. “We’ve implemented similar programs for high-need health professionals, and we can do this for our educators, too.”
Educators of all demographics have taken on student loan debt to enter the profession. However, data shows that 56% of Black educators relied on student loans compared to 44% of White educators. Additionally, Black educators have higher student loan debt, averaging $68,300 compared to $54,300 on average for White educators.
The Student Loan Repayment Assistance for Educators Act of 2023 was co-introduced by Councilmembers Charles Allen, Kenyan R. McDuffie, Vincent C. Gray, Janeese Lewis George, Zachary Parker, Brooke Pinto, Robert C. White Jr., and Matthew Frumin.
Expanding therapy options for youth in foster care
The Alternative Restorative Therapy (ART) Options for Youth Amendment Act of 2023 would require the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) to provide alternative forms of therapy, including art, music, and narrative therapy, among others, to youth in their care. The agency currently offers a broad array of therapy options for youth and families. However, most do not explicitly facilitate opportunities for youth to non-verbally and physically externalize their experiences in a therapeutic setting.
“Data shows that when combined with talk therapy, alternative forms of therapy can help individuals manage intense emotions, decrease stress and anxiety, and foster self-awareness,” stated Councilmember Henderson. “As we seek to improve behavioral health outcomes across the city, we must acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy. Requiring CFSA to provide alternative forms of therapy will reduce financial burdens for foster children and their families who may otherwise seek these treatments elsewhere.”
The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers Charles Allen, Kenyan R. McDuffie, Brooke Pinto, Matthew Frumin, and Robert C. White, Jr.
Addressing equity concerns with the FAFSA completion gap
Finally, Henderson introduced the Universal Free Application for Federal Student Aid Graduation Requirement Act of 2023 which would require that each District of Columbia public high school student file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) prior to graduation. Students and families would have the option to opt-out of this requirement by completing a waiver form administered by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.
“District students in the graduating class of 2022 left $2.7 million in Pell Grants on the table by not completing the FAFSA,” Councilmember Henderson noted. “Completing the FAFSA will reduce the amount of student loan debt our students accrue and help them meet their education goals. This is an equity issue that other states have already begun to address, as should the District of Columbia.”
This bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers Charles Allen, Kenyan R. McDuffie, Vincent C. Gray, Brooke Pinto, Matthew Frumin, and Robert White, Jr.