January 29, 2019 Start Strong PA Hosts Statewide Campaign Launch in Harrisburg On January 29, Start Strong PA hosted their official statewide campaign launch event at the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex in Harrisburg. What is Start Strong PA? Guided by evidence-based research, the Start Strong PA campaign was launched to help ensure that every Pennsylvania infant and toddler starts off strong. By advocating for increased access to and affordability of high-quality child care programs, the campaign aims to support healthy childhood development, working families, and the Pennsylvania economy. Speaking on behalf of the campaign, Jodi Askins, Executive Director of PennAEYC, stated: “Infant-toddler brains make over a million neural connections every second – forming brain architecture for life. At no other time in a human’s life will the brain develop at this remarkable speed or with such intricacy. This is the foundation upon which all later learning, behavior, and health depend. That’s why we need Pennsylvanians to join us and help our infants and toddlers ‘start strong’!” At the Launch With approximately 75 early childhood advocates in attendance, including state legislators, professionals, and families with children in child care, the launch began with a complimentary coffee bar (made possible by Little Amps Coffee Roasters), pictures of legislators’ young children, and conversations on the important role that high-quality child care plays in the lives of our infants and toddlers. A press conference was held later in the afternoon, featuring representatives from partner organizations, state legislators, administration, parents, and high-quality child care programs. Various early childhood education and care topics were highlighted, including issues of access, affordability, low wages, and a need for more high-quality early childhood staff. Parent Lauren Bethea spoke about her experiences waiting for care for her daughter Lorraine: “The weight of the world was on my shoulders until my child got into a high-quality program. Every young child like Lorraine deserves this opportunity. Waiting for space in a program until your child is 2, 3, or even older before enrollment is not an option for so many families.” Deputy Secretary Suzann Morris spoke to her role as a mother and to her leadership role over current initiatives of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, sharing that work is underway to make early childhood programs more efficient such as program coordination in regional Early Learning Resource Centers. Watch the full press conference here. Quotes from Pennsylvania Legislators At the press conference, state legislators spoke out on the following topics: Senator Pat Browne, Co-Chair, Early Childhood Education Caucus “This is the type of results-based thinking that’s necessary to maximize where the state spends its limited amount of discretionary revenue. These early learning programs have a proven track record of helping prevent at-risk young people from falling behind or dropping out of school. Looking long-term, young people who receive early learning assistance are more likely to become productive members of our community. By prioritizing spending on these vital programs it will save the Commonwealth long-term costs.” Senator Jay Costa “Paying [early childhood professionals] some of the lowest wages in the service industry is simply unacceptable and needs to change.” Representative Mark Longietti, Co-Chair, Early Childhood Education Caucus “Programs provide a safe and secure environment and teachers help children learn the “executive function” and self-regulation skills that are necessary for life success – from being able to pay attention, plan, and prioritize to recognizing, naming and controlling their emotions.” Representative Lynda Schlegel Culver “The state has a waiting list of over 4,300 kids for a subsidy and an average waiting time of 88 days as of November. And only one-third of children receiving subsidized care were in Keystone STAR 3 or 4 programs.” How You Can Support Help us inform and engage Pennsylvania policymakers on the changes necessary to increase access, affordability, and quality in infant/toddler child care programs and sign-on your support here or download, complete, and email this sign-on form to firstname.lastname@example.org. For updates on the campaign, follow Start Strong PA on Facebook and Twitter. Questions For questions or to schedule an interview with campaign launch speakers or Start Strong PA partner organizations, please contact Lissa Geiger Shulman at 717.802.1881 or email@example.com.