News

October 23, 2019

Children’s Fund Working Group Presents Report to County Executive

In October 2019, the Allegheny County Children’s Fund Working Group formally presented County Executive Rich Fitzgerald with a report for his review and consideration. In it, the Group recommends the creation of a new county department dedicated to children, as well as an annual investment of up to $20 million to support high-quality learning and out-of-school-time programs.

About

Officially launched in May 2018, the Allegheny Children’s Fund initiative is a citizen-led effort that seeks to “change the way we fund the efforts that are proven to ensure the health and well-being of our kids across the county: early learning, after school programs, and good nutrition.” In November 2018, the Group successfully qualified a question for the General Election ballot, asking voters:

“Shall the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter be amended to establish the Allegheny County Children’s Fund, funded by Allegheny County levying and collecting an additional 0.25 mills, the equivalent of $25 on each $100,000 of assessed value, on all taxable real estate, beginning January 1, 2019 and thereafter, to be used to improve the well-being of children through the provision of services throughout the County including early childhood learning, after school programs, and nutritious meals?”

While the group exceeded their goal of collecting more than 40,000 petition signatures from community members and stakeholders, the effort fell short as 48.4% of voters answered “YES” on the ballot. A majority (>50%) “YES” vote was needed.

While the question did not receive a majority “YES” vote, community members and stakeholders still agreed that unmet needs remained. With this, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that a 26-member working group had been convened to begin to look at the potential creation of a Children’s Fund to provide resources to early childhood learning and out-of-school-time programs across Allegheny County.

Allegheny County Children’s Fund Tasks

County Executive Fitgerald charged the working group with the following tasks:

    • review available data to assess the state of children and children’s programming in Allegheny County;
    • gather information from providers, parents, and experts across the county, especially regarding programming demand and supply gaps;
    • gather input from the larger community;
    • review state and federal policies and their impact on children’s programming in the county;
    • design the operations of a possible children’s fund;
    • provide concept budgets for operations within budgets of $5 million, $10 million, and $20 million annually;
    • provide sample allocation models and scenarios; and
    • report findings to the County Executive.

Overview of the Report

The working group found that there are significant gaps in equitable access and recommends that a focus on improving the quality of the system would provide significant benefit to the community. The report proposed a mission and vision for a Children’s Fund and identified four core principles: equity, access, quality, and accountability. With this, the group’s annual goal is to ensure that more children in Allegheny County can access high-quality programming. As a long-term goal, the group hopes for systemic improvements for children in Allegheny County.

“An investment of this level is a commitment that focuses on quality and equity for youth in our community,” said Trisha M. Gadson, Ph.D., Co-Chair of the Children’s Fund Working Group. “It can further support the economic viability of our region.”

During its six months of work, the group sought to engage as many voices as possible to receive input and feedback from the community. This process included six public meetings, two focus groups, an online survey (in English and Spanish), and a meeting-in-a-box kit to receive input from teens. In addition to its final report, the group issued a Public Engagement Summary as a companion piece, outlining input from the public on the creation of a Children’s Fund at the county level.

County Executive Fitzgerald thanked the group for their diligent attention, stating, “This issue is important to me and it is important to this community. Nothing could be more impactful to the residents of Allegheny County than investing in our children and their future. While I’ve just begun to dive into this report and its recommendations, it is clear that it calls for a systemic change to be dedicated to children’s success. I’m grateful to the leaders of our community who gave of their time and talents to provide us with a plan to consider and will be continuing this conversation with them as we consider what options make sense for our county moving forward.”

“The importance of the County Executive’s leadership is vital to the success of our children and our region,” said Michelle Figlar, Co-Chair of the Children’s Fund Working Group. “The addition of local leadership and revenue is essential to the success of early learning and out-of-school programs, and Allegheny County has the opportunity to lead in this effort.”

Read the Full Report

To read the full report, visit the Allegheny County website.

Next Steps

The work of the Allegheny County Children’s Fund Working Group is now complete. Follow what happens next with the Working Group’s recommendations at the County Executive’s website or by contacting your member of the Allegheny County Council.

More Information

For more information, visit the Children’s Fund website.

Read the full release.

*Information provided by the Office of County Executive Rich Fitzgerald

Picture: Two young boys stand at a table together playing with attachable blocks.