News

June 28, 2021

Early Learning Pennsylvania Response to 2021-22 State Budget

The principal partners of Early Learning Pennsylvania (ELPA), a statewide coalition of advocates focused on supporting young Pennsylvanians from birth to age five, believes the Commonwealth’s economic recovery hinges on helping working families by prioritizing greater state investments in high-quality pre-k, child care and evidence-based home visiting. ELPA operates four issue-based advocacy campaigns: Pre-K for PA, Start Strong PA, Childhood Begins at Home, and Thriving PA. Reaction statements from three of these campaigns regarding the FY 2021-22 state budget follow:

Pre-K

“Pre-K for PA applauds the $25 million in new state funding for Pre-K Counts and $5 million for Head Start Supplemental Assistance as part of the 2021-22 PA State Budget. This funding continues the commonwealth’s tradition of expanding access to high-quality pre-k – providing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to more than 3,200 additional young learners. 

“Research shows that high-quality pre-k benefits children’s cognitive, social and emotional development. A new study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill confirmed that the commonwealth’s investment in pre-k pays dividends for the children fortunate enough to access pre-k through the Pre-K Counts program. In language and math skills, the study showed that these kids outperformed their kindergarten peers who did not enjoy access—an advantage that equated to four to five months of learning gains. Even with this budget increase, more than 100,000 eligible three- and four-year-olds still lack access to high-quality pre-k.”

Child Care

“The General Assembly and the Wolf Administration unfortunately missed the opportunity to prioritize families who are struggling to return to work. Ignoring recommendations developed with input from over 1,000 child care providers and parents, Pennsylvania’s elected leadership has fallen significantly short on ensuring American Rescue Plan child care funds are used to help families find and afford high-quality child care and to stabilize the industry.

“Given that 70% of Pennsylvania children under the age of five had all adults in their household in the labor force prior to the pandemic, high-quality child care is an essential workforce support. That workforce must be able to return to work for Pennsylvania to recover from the pandemic’s economic devastation.  

“We now call on the Wolf Administration to prioritize and implement our recommendations for Pennsylvania’s $1.2 billion in American Rescue Plan child care funding. With nearly 700 child care programs permanently closed and over 350 temporarily closed, families are struggling to find child care. Those child care providers that have managed to stay open are still incurring additional pandemic-related costs while operating significantly under capacity and are struggling to attract and retain teachers.

“Not only is there less child care capacity in the system, only 42% of certified child care capacity currently meets high-quality standards. And only 39% of infants and toddlers that receive subsidized care attend programs that have met high-quality standards. High-quality care and education mean safer, healthier children and are critical to maximizing the period of a child’s most rapid brain growth. 

 “Start Strong PA’s recommendations for American Rescue Plan child care funding will stabilize, strengthen and ultimately secure the child care industry. This industry is critical to the success of our economic recovery.”

Evidence-Based Home Visiting

“On behalf of the pregnant women, children, and families who would benefit the most from evidence-based home visiting – especially those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic – Childhood Begins at Home is dismayed that there is no increase in the state budget for these voluntary services backed by decades of research.

“Without funding increases to reach more Pennsylvania families, the unmet need remains at a staggering 95%. The Community-Based Family Centers line will be level-funded, and the Nurse-Family Partnership line will receive a minimal increase to restore the line to its prior level due to a slight reduction resulting from the state using enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding last year.

“Throughout budget negotiations, policymakers emphasized the infusion of federal stimulus dollars to inform state spending decisions. Of the total amount of one-time state funds Pennsylvania received from the American Rescue Plan ($7.3 billion), home visiting gets less than .02% (or a paltry $1.3 million) through the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. This funding has yet to be distributed to programs that received no aid during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is limited in its use and timeframe to spend these dollars.

“Only pennies on the dollar for evidence-based home visiting are coming in federally. It adds insult to injury that policymakers in the legislative and administrative branches did not step up and recognize constituents would benefit from the same services that have been a lifeline for so many during the last 15 months.  

“While states’ use of the ARP funds is flexible, the federal stimulus funding for evidence-based home visiting would not even reach one family in each of Pennsylvania’s 253 legislative districts.

“From birth to age five, brain growth is rapid, learning is happening, and our coalition of advocates is committed to ensuring that families can access it in high-quality, developmentally appropriate settings. In Pennsylvania, funding has not been prioritized to ensure the resources are there to offer these irreplaceable opportunities, creating deep inequity among children and their families at a very early age. We, and our tens of thousands of supporters, will continue to urge lawmakers to invest in early learning boldly – it is an urgent necessity.”

About Early Learning Pennsylvania Initiatives

Pre-K for PA launched in 2014 with the vision that every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania will have access to high-quality pre-k. Learn more on the Pre-K for PA website.

 Start Strong PA launched in 2019 to support healthy child development, working families, and the economy by increasing access to and affordability of high-quality child care programs for young children. Learn more on the Start Strong PA website

Childhood Begins At Home is a statewide campaign to help policymakers and the public understand the value of evidence-based home visiting and support public investments in the programs.  Learn more on the Childhood Begins at Home website

News

April 20, 2021

Start Strong PA Provider and Family Field Forums: Building a Stronger Child Care System through the American Rescue Plan

Child care providers and families are invited to virtual forums to share their pandemic experiences and make recommendations for how they feel the American Rescue Plan federal dollars should be spent in Pennsylvania.

About

Start Strong PA is hosting virtual forums to gather feedback from child care providers and the families they serve in order to make recommendations to the Wolf Administration for how the American Rescue Plan funds should be spent.

The American Rescue Plan includes $24 billion for child care stabilization, $15 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant, and $3.55 billion in the Child Care Entitlement to States. Pennsylvania is estimated to be awarded $1.18 billion. 

The child care sector was in crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic, with eligible families unable to access child care subsidy, poverty-level wages for early childhood educators, and razor thin margins for providers. The child care sector has been pushed to the brink of collapse by the pandemic. Federal relief over the last year has helped many providers, however between March 2020 and February 2021, 592 Pennsylvania providers have closed permanently and 363 have temporarily closed.  Child care providers are still incurring additional pandemic related costs while operating significantly under capacity. 

Register

  • Allegheny County Forum | May 4, 2021
    10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
    Register
  • Southwestern PA Forum | May 11, 2021
    (Lawrence, Butler, Armstrong, Indiana, Somerset, Fayette, Greene, Washington, Beaver, and Westmoreland counties)
    10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
    Register

Both forums will be held virtually via Zoom. Registration is required to receive an attendance link.

 

News

Start Strong PA Provider and Family Field Forums: Building a Stronger Child Care System through the American Rescue Plan

Child care providers and families are invited to virtual forums to share their pandemic experiences and make recommendations for how they feel the American Rescue Plan federal dollars should be spent in Pennsylvania.

About

Start Strong PA is hosting virtual forums to gather feedback from child care providers and the families they serve in order to make recommendations to the Wolf Administration for how the American Rescue Plan funds should be spent.

The American Rescue Plan includes $24 billion for child care stabilization, $15 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant, and $3.55 billion in the Child Care Entitlement to States. Pennsylvania is estimated to be awarded $1.18 billion. 

The child care sector was in crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic, with eligible families unable to access child care subsidy, poverty-level wages for early childhood educators, and razor thin margins for providers. The child care sector has been pushed to the brink of collapse by the pandemic. Federal relief over the last year has helped many providers, however between March 2020 and February 2021, 592 Pennsylvania providers have closed permanently and 363 have temporarily closed.  Child care providers are still incurring additional pandemic related costs while operating significantly under capacity. 

Register

  • Allegheny County Forum | May 4, 2021
    10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
    Register
  • Southwestern PA Forum | May 11, 2021
    (Lawrence, Butler, Armstrong, Indiana, Somerset, Fayette, Greene, Washington, Beaver, and Westmoreland counties)
    10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
    Register

Both forums will be held virtually via Zoom. Registration is required to receive an attendance link.

 

News

February 4, 2021

2021-22 Pennsylvania Budget Proposal Response

On February 3, during his 2021-22 budget proposal address, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf put an emphasis on Pennsylvania families.

As a member of Early Learning Pennsylvania (ELPA), a statewide coalition of advocates focused on supporting young Pennsylvanians from birth to age five, Trying Together commends the governor’s continued commitment to growing state funding for pre-k. However, additional effort is needed to boost the availability of quality child care and home visiting services that are essential to Pennsylvania’s working families and our economic recovery.

ELPA operates three issue-based advocacy campaigns: Pre-K for PA, Start Strong PA, and Childhood Begins at Home.

Governor Wolf’s state budget proposal included:

Pre-k

  • $25 million in additional funding for the state’s Pre-K Counts program.
  • $5 million in additional funding for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. Together, this $30 million expansion would serve approximately 3,270 additional young children. Currently, more than 106,000 eligible three- and four-year-old children do not have access to high-quality publicly funded pre-k programs.

In a press release, ELPA states, “During a difficult budget year, Governor Wolf deserves credit for his continued support of expanded access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k in PA. The $30 million funding increase for these programs in the proposed 2021-22 PA budget ($25 million for Pre-K Counts; $5 million for Head Start State Supplemental Assistance Program) continues the tradition of expanding this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to thousands more three- and four-year-olds.

“A new study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill confirmed that the Commonwealth’s investment in pre-k is paying dividends for the children fortunate enough to access pre-k through Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts program. In language and math skills, the study showed that these kids outperformed their kindergarten peers who did not enjoy access – an advantage that equated to four to five months of learning gains, which is a substantial difference in development at that age and a meaningful advantage during the COVID-19 era.”

Child Care

  • $87 million in existing federal child care funds to increase child care base rates.

Base rates for CCW reimbursements will be increased to the 40th percentile of the market rate for child care in the provider’s region, up from approximately the 25th percentile where most of Pennsylvania’s child care providers currently sit. This change brings Pennsylvania closer to the federal government’s recommendation of reimbursing at the 75th percentile.

Trying Together and the ELPA campaigns commend the Wolf administration for this proposed change, however, the child care industry needs an additional boost.

“Pennsylvania’s working families struggled to find and afford high-quality child care prior to the pandemic. Today’s economic downturn has only exacerbated this problem,” the ELPA press release states. “Start Strong PA urges Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to address these child care needs by quickly utilizing federal funds to serve 3,000 additional eligible infants and toddlers in high-quality slots through contracts, which provides greater financial stability to providers.”

Evidence-based Home Visiting

  • Level funding for home visiting.

The current public health crisis, isolation, stress, and unemployment have made home visiting more essential than ever. Trying Together and the ELPA campaigns hope to work collaboratively with the administration and legislature to expand evidence-based home visiting services to match that commitment with the resources to make it a reality.

We will advocate for these investments as the budget process continues. Stay up-to-date on how to advocate for these issues by signing-up to support Trying Together’s public policy agenda.

 

News

September 22, 2020

ECE Advocacy 101

Are you interested in learning how to use your experience and knowledge to advocate for early childhood? Join Trying Together on October 6 for our free virtual workshop, “ECE Advocacy 101.”

About

The ECE Advocacy 101 workshop is designed to break down the Pennsylvania budget cycle. Participants will receive an overview of the Early Learning PA (ELPA) campaigns, how Early Childhood Education programs are impacted by the budget process, and ways professionals and families can use their experience and knowledge to advocate. Participants will leave with foundational knowledge of the Pennsylvania budget, ELPA campaigns, and various advocacy actions they participate in or lead.

Session Details

    • Session Date: Tuesday, October 6, 2020  |  1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
    • Instructors: Cristina Codario, Emily Neff, and Lindsey Ramsey
    • Core Knowledge Area: Professional and Leadership
    • CDA Content Area: Maintaining Professionalism
    • Registration Deadline: Sunday, October 4, 2020

Registration

To register, visit the course PD Registry page. Space is limited. Participants will receive the course Zoom link via email within 24 hours before the start date for the course. PQAS and Act 48 credit available.

If you do not have a PD Registry account, please complete this online form to create one. If you are unable to create an account, please contact Jasmine Davis at jasmine@tryingtogether.org for more information.

More Information

For questions or more information, contact Jasmine Davis at jasmine@tryingtogether.org.

News

June 29, 2020

Connections and Conversations: Advocacy 101

Are you interested in learning about the budget process and state government in Pennsylvania? Join Trying Together on July 22 at 6 p.m. for our online session, “Connections and Conversations: Advocacy 101.”

About

Connections and Conversations Virtual Check-Ins are interactive sessions that highlight topics of interest to the field of early childhood education. Participants will engage in virtual discussions via Zoom with child development experts while interacting with early learning practitioners to share questions, experiences, and expertise about the highlighted topic.

This session will highlight the budget process and state government in Pennsylvania. Participants will receive an overview of the Early Learning Pennsylvania (ELPA) campaigns, how early childhood education programs are impacted by the budget process, and ways professionals and families can use their experiences and knowledge to advocate. This session will also identify advocacy actions attendees can participate in or lead to advocate for early childhood.

Participants will receive the course Zoom link via email within 24 hours before the start date for the course. For questions, contact Rosie Hogan at rosie@tryingtogether.org or Sarah Grubb at sarah.elrc5@alleghenycounty.us.

Session Details

    • Session Date: Wednesday, July 22 | 6 – 7 p.m
    • Instructors: Emily Neff, Cristina Codario, and Lindsey Ramsey
    • CKC: K6.10 C1
    • CDA Subject Area: Maintaining a commitment to professionalism.
    • Registrations must be submitted by Monday, July 20. Space is limited.
    • Sessions will be offered biweekly and will offer one hour of PQAS credit. Act 48 credit will not be offered.

Registration

To register and learn more, visit the course webpage.

Session Rules and Guidelines

These virtual discussions are designed to provide educators the opportunity to grow professionally and share knowledge on early childhood topics. During the meeting, participants should follow the guidelines below to ensure a successful virtual meeting for all participants.

    • Please allow all participants a chance to speak. Listen respectfully and actively.
    • Commit to learning about each other, not to debating the topic.
    • Embrace differences of opinion as healthy and support each person’s authentic self-expression.
    • Participants will be muted for the beginning portion of the session.
    • Participants may use the “Raise Hand” feature in Zoom to request an opportunity to comment or ask a question. Individuals will be temporarily unmuted by the moderator.
    • Participants may type a comment or question in the Chat or may send comments or questions directly to the moderator for them to share.
    • To receive PQAS credit, you must complete an evaluation at the end of the session and include your PD Registry number.
    • Have fun, make connections, and engage in the conversations!

More Information

For questions or more information, please contact Rosie Hogan at rosie@tryingtogether.org.

News

February 7, 2020

2020-21 Pennsylvania Budget Proposal Response

On February 5, during his 2020-2021 budget proposal address, Governor Tom Wolf dared us to imagine a Pennsylvania where no one is denied the chance to work because they can’t find child care. A Pennsylvania where high-quality child care is accessible and affordable. A Pennsylvania where child care rates are stabilized and child care providers are incentivized. Trying Together belives in that dream, but the budget proposal itself offers no new state investments to make these dreams a reality.

About

While the 2020-21 budget proposal offered increased state investments in early childhood programs like pre-k and home-visiting, it’s missing state investments for something that affects the lives of every parent and caregiver in Pennsylvania: child care. Early Learning PA highlights this issue in their recent press release, stating, “Given that 70 percent of Pennsylvania children under the age of five have all adults in their household in the labor force, high-quality child care is an essential workforce support.” However, due to high prices and limited child care slots, many families across the Commonwealth are not able to afford or access high-quality child care programs.

Early Learning PA continues on, stating, “Although the Governor’s budget proposal utilizes $15.3 million in federal funding toward child care subsidy base rates, this proposal will have no impact in addressing the list of children waiting to gain access to subsidized care or improve the quality of that care.” This, in turn, affects each caregiver’s ability to enter, re-enter, or remain in the workforce and the long-term academic, career, and health outcomes of young children. In Pennsylvania, 73 percent of eligible children under the age of five are not receiving high-quality child care services.

Interestingly, the lack of state investment is also a lack of response to the Governor’s own Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center report, just released last week identifying barriers to employment and providing recommendations for action by the governor, Pennsylvania General Assembly, and private sector. In the report, increasing access to affordable high-quality child care was a top priority for all three.

Take Action

The lack of state investments in child care isn’t only something worth talking about, it’s also an issue that worthy of advocacy. Join us as an advocate by sending a message urging the General Assembly to demonstrate their commitment to Pennsylvania’s youngest children, their families, and our economy by increasing state funding for high-quality child care! Our senators and representatives will need to hear from us through budget negotiations, and our message starts now.

Join us if you believe that all children in Pennsylvania deserve to start strong!

News

January 31, 2020

ECE Advocacy Fellows Complete First Month of Program

Convening for the first time at Trying Together’s main office, 2020 ECE Advocacy Fellows completed their first month of the Fellowship program this January.

About

In January 2020, Trying Together launched its second Early Childhood Education (ECE) Advocacy Fellowship. Now through September, Fellows will meet once per month to gain public policy knowledge, build on their leadership skills, and develop their voices as early childhood advocates.

In January, Fellows met for their first workshop session where they learned about Early Learning PA (ELPA) campaigns, including Start Strong PA, Pre-K for PA, and Childhood Begins at Home, and heard from past Fellows about how to make the most out of their Fellowship experience.

If you’re interested in advocacy, visit our Take Action page!

More Information

If you’re interested in learning more about the Fellowship, visit our webpage, sign-up to receive our newsletters, and follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Updates will be shared as information becomes available.