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 2019, 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

News

December 5, 2018

What’s Next for the Allegheny County Children’s Fund?

Although the outcome of “Our Kids. Our Commitment.” initiative was not what proponents wanted, key stakeholders are looking toward the future and finding some victory in the vote.

Voting Results

During the recent election, over 513,000 Allegheny County residents cast their vote on a proposed amendment to establish the Allegheny County Children’s Fund through an increase in property taxes (0.25 millage rate, an estimated $30 increase per year for the average household). The fund would have supported early learning opportunities for children, after-school programs and nutritious meals. The amendment was defeated, with 48.31 percent of voters in support and 51.69 percent against.

“What I heard from my constituents was that they liked the idea of increased and specific funding for early learning, after-school programming, and nutrition programs,” says Councilwoman Deb Gross. “But they had concerns about the governance of the fund.”

What Does This Mean?

The defeat means that Allegheny County still does not dedicate any funding to early learning programs and nutritious meals but does allocate approximately $8 million to after-school programs. Advocates of the Children’s Fund say, despite the vote’s outcome, the need for these programs is still there, and that the vote showed that there is great public interest in finding a solution to funding these programs for our children.

“What this tells us is that just over a half-million people in Allegheny County care about this issue,” says Patrick Dowd, executive director of Allies for Children. “There is wide consensus that these types of programs are something we should be supporting, and clearly a number of people care about this issue. That part to us is helpful and inspiring.”

James Doyle, executive director of Higher Achievement, Pittsburgh, appreciates the number of people who did vote yes. “The people are saying they care about these three critical things enough to support a small increase in their taxes,” he says. “That sends a strong message for us to continue our work.”

Advocates agree that the vote shows people care about this issue and people want to see some sort of funding be provided for this type of early childhood support.

What’s Next?

The 10 organizations that came together to form the Allegheny County Children’s Fund Initiative will continue to advocate for these programs in the day-to-day work of their organizations.  The path to move forward, Dowd says, is through continued conversations with supporters, as well as listening very carefully to those who weren’t supportive.

The group plans to create a space for people to re-engage as they sift through many ideas and other feedback they received.  A future source of funding will need to have a transparent means of reporting back to the public, they say, but the source of that funding remains to be seen.

Allegheny Children’s Fund supporters will continue to advocate for these initiatives in the day-to-day work of their organizations, as well as through their continued collaboration to create a source of funding that will support these programs in the long-term.

“Our organization’s mission has been and will continue to be one that focuses on advocating on behalf of the needs and rights of children,” says Cara Ciminillo, executive director of Trying Together. “The needs remain and the needs are great.”

“I am hopeful that the state will continue the pattern of the past few years with incremental increases to funding for these programs, but this has not been enough to fill the gap,” she says. “We will be continuing the effort to look for local revenue to help support some of that gap.”

*Information provided by Kidsburgh*