March 8, 2021

New Pre-k Report Highlights Needs for Pre-K Counts and Head Start Rate Increase

In the last five years, Pennsylvania’s spending on pre-k has increased by $145 million for state-funded, high-quality pre-k programs including Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP).

As the Commonwealth continues to increase public dollars for early childhood education, it is imperative that investments go towards increasing rates for publicly-funded programs to pay providers closer to what high-quality pre-k costs.

Trying Together, in its role as a partner of the Pre-K for PA statewide advocacy campaign, released the report Invest in Quality: A Case for Paying Closer to What High-Quality Pre-K Costs in early March 2021. In this new report the campaign recommends maintaining the rate increase provided to Pre-K Counts and HSSAP in fiscal year 2020-21.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), Pennsylvania ranks 19 out of 28 in per capita investments of pre-k programs. Pre-k rates have not kept pace with inflation. Investing in quality through rate adjustments ensures pre-k programs can maintain high-quality and safe early learning experiences for children and families.

According to the report, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the existing problem of the underfunded early childhood infrastructure. Early care and education is a critical piece to economic recovery. Pre-k will not only be essential to supporting the growth of our youngest learners who have missed out on months of learning opportunities, it will also serve as part of the infrastructure for getting families back to work.

In addition to the typical personnel and operations costs, COVID-19 health protocol have presented a new set of costs for the PPE and sanitation materials to ensure the safety of children, staff, and families.

The report maintains that Pennsylvania should allocate $9 million — consistent with the rate increase provided through the federal CARES Act funding — to specifically go toward a rate adjustment for both Pre-K Counts and HSSAP. The following allocations should be directly passed through to providers in order to meet the current needs:

  • A $7 million allocation to provide rate adjustments of Pre-K Counts current
    base rate from $8,750 to $9,025.
  • A $2 million allocation to provide rate adjustments of HSSAP current average
    base rate from $10,500 to $10,805.

Read the full report: Invest in Quality: A Case for Paying Closer to What High-Quality Pre-K Costs


April 16, 2020

COVID-19: Resources for Early Learning Programs

If you work for or operate an early learning program in Pennsylvania, including public and private schools; child care centers; group child care homes; family child care homes; family, friend, and neighbor care, it’s important to remain calm, prepare, and take precautionary measures. By doing so, you will help to maintain the health and wellbeing of yourself, other staff, and the communities you serve. For up-to-date recommendations and COVID-19 Resources for Early Learning programs, please visit the ELRC Region 5 website.

Continue reading below for a brief overview of COVID-19; information about waivers and enrollment capacity; and a list of resources.



An Overview of COVID-19

COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus not previously seen in humans. Because the virus impacts the respiratory system, common symptoms of infection include fever, dry cough, tiredness, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing. However, WHO states that some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and diarrhea. After being infected with COVID-19, individuals generally display mild symptoms that begin gradually, but some people who become infected may not develop any symptoms at all and may feel healthy.

To learn more about COVID-19 and the steps you can take to reduce your family’s risk of infection, read our recent news post. This post also includes information about what to do after infection, information on how it spreads, and links to several other organizations and entities that can provide more information.

National Sex Offender Registry Clearances

According to the Department of Human Services Office Child Development & Early Learning Bureau of Certification Services, no exceptions will be made for expired or late National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) clearances after regular child care operations resume. Once regular child care operations resume statewide, staff will not be permitted to return to early learning programs if any of their clearances are expired. For this reason, it is recommended that all staff who require new or renewed finger-print checks should do so as soon as possible at one of the following available facilities.

To learn more about NSOR changes in the last 12 months, please visit ELRC Region 5’s news post.



COVID-19 Resources for Early Learning Programs

Information about COVID-19

Guidance for Providers

Early Learning

Talking with Children


After Infection

Impacts on Child Care, School, and Work

Fact Sheets

Informational Flyers

Mental Health

Receiving Support

Multilingual Resources

Curated Lists

Recorded Webinars

Contacts and Information

More Information

For more information about COVID-19, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or World Health Organization (WHO) websites.


March 9, 2020

Interviews with Ms. Barb and Families at the Frank Sarris Library

Prior to the start of the Washington County Focus Week (March 9 – 13, 2020), Trying Together visited staff, families, and young children at the Frank Sarris Public Library in Canonsburg for a reading of Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.” At the event, library staff member Barbara Somma, aka Ms. Barb, led children and their caregivers through a series of activities, including fingerplays, dances, and a Dr. Seuss themed craft. The classroom included creative play items for the children as well, including a puppet show theater, “grocery market,” books, legos, and more.

After the class, Trying Together had the opportunity to talk with Ms. Barb and two participating caregivers, Karen and Kim. Featured below are our questions and each interviewees’ responses.


Barbara Somma, Class Teacher

Barbara Somma, or as the children call her, “Ms. Barb,” brightens the day of each child and caregiver who attends her classes. Having a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Special Education under her belt, Ms. Barb spent the last 10 years as a dedicated staff member at the Frank Sarris Public Library. If you stop by the Library, you can catch Ms. Barb leading Storytime, Little Picassos, Wiggles and Giggles, and the Summer Reading Camp! Odds are, she will have a crowd of young children giggling and following her happily!

  • What programming does Frank Sarris Library provide for young children and families?

The Frank Sarris Library offers a plethora of programming for children and families! Monday through Friday, we have activities geared towards preschool level children like storytime, yoga storytime, art, and a class called Wiggles and Giggles that is focused on body movement. During the month of July, we also offer a Summer Reading Camp for children in Kindergarten through fourth grade that includes creative themes like Fairytale Science, Mysical Beasts, and Magic School. They’re all meant to spark each child’s imagination. We offer services all throughout the year though, including books for readers of all ages, creative “Grable Kits,” several e-resources, and more.

  • How can caregivers make literacy experiences meaningful for their young children?

I think by just reading to your children all of the time. Read for 20 minutes a day, every day with your children. As a mother of two, I would always read a couple books with them right before bed. It’s also important to get a library card! They’re free and the library has tons of free resources for young children and families.

  • Why do you feel early childhood development is so important for young children?

Early childhood development is the basis for everything a child needs in life! Children learn from meaningful experiences and repetition. As adults, we need to make sure we are providing the time and patience for those experiences!

  • How do you see your role at the Frank Sarris Library supporting early childhood development in your community?

I think my role is really important here at the Frank Sarris Library. We serve many families and it’s important that we provide children with safe places to go. All of the staff here at the Library serve as role models within the community. However, our Library is an untapped resource. There are so many services that community members could benefit from if they stopped by.

Karen and Granddaughter Ellie

  • How did you like today’s event? What piqued your interest in attending?

Everything Ms. Barb does is truly amazing. I’ve been coming here for seven and a half years and I’ve brought all of my grandchildren. I was interested in attending because I wanted to make sure my grandchildren had social interactions with young children, and Ms. Barb allows the children to have these great social experiences! By coming here, my grandchildren have learned language concepts and vocabulary. Ms. Barb is so dynamic. She exudes engaging and creative energy in everything she does!

  • What’s your favorite book to read to your child? Why?

Ellie doesn’t have a favorite book, she really just loves to read! She is very into the alphabet right now!

Kim and Grandson

  • How did you like today’s event? What piqued your interest in attending?

Ms. Barb is great! Attending this program is the best thing I have done with my grandson! We heard about the children’s programs here through word of mouth. We have been attending since he was about six months old. We love Ms. Barb’s music and freeze dancing!

  • What’s your favorite book to read to your child?

He loves reading Elmo and Mini Mouse right now!

More Information

This session was one of many free services that the Frank Sarris Public Library provides, with options available for learners of all ages. To learn more about their services, visit the Frank Sarris Public Library website! To learn more about the Washington County Focus Week, read our news post!


March 6, 2020

Washington County Focus Week Urges Increased Investments

In March 2020, Trying Together, Pre-K for PA, and Start Strong PA are co-hosting the Washington County Focus Week to highlight the need for increased child care and pre-kindergarten investments in future Pennsylvania budgets.


Taking place from March 9 through March 13, 2020, the Washington County Focus Week seeks to:

    • highlight quality infant and toddler child care in Washington and Allegheny County;
    • thank state policymakers for investments in high-quality early learning programs;
    • document continued unmet need for high-quality child care and pre-k in Washington and Allegheny County;
    • and urge state policymakers to make high-quality child care and pre-k top priorities in future state budgets to increase access to and the affordability of these critical programs.

The Washington County Focus Week is one of many to come. Pre-K For PA, Start Strong PA, and campaign partner organizations like Trying Together will host additional Focus Weeks in districts across the Commonwealth throughout the year. These weeks were developed, in part, due to the need for increased child care funding in the Pennsylvania state budget, as 73 percent of eligible children under the age of five are not receiving high-quality child care services

Why It Matters

According to the Committee for Economic Development’s 2019 Child Care in State Economies Fact Sheet, the average annual cost of child care for an infant in Pennsylvania is $11,560 in a child care center. That is roughly 21 percent of the state’s median income and 80 percent of the cost of tuition and fees at a four-year state college in Pennsylvania. These costs remain a major barrier for many parents and caregivers, especially those who are seeking to enter, re-enter, or remain in the workforce. 

Issues of access are not limited to child care, however, as 56 percent of eligible three- and four-year-olds in Pennsylvania do not have access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-k according to recent data from KIDS COUNT: Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. Locally, 55 percent of eligible children in Washington County do not have access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-k.

Both Pre-K For PA and Start Strong PA commented on the most recent 2020-2021 Pennsylvania State Budget proposal, 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.”

No Small Matter Screening

On March 12 from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Collier Community Center (which lies on the border of Washington and Allegheny Counties in Oakdale, Pennsylvania) Washington County constituents are invited to attend a free screening and panel discussion of the early childhood documentary, No Small Matter.

Through poignant stories and surprising humor, No Small Matter lays out the overwhelming evidence for the importance of the first five years of life and reveals how our failure to act on that evidence has resulted in an everyday crisis for American families, and a slow-motion catastrophe for the entire country. These crises are playing out in Pennsylvania, as families and caregivers across the Commonwealth are struggling to access high-quality pre-kindergarten and child care programs.

Panelists will include:

    • Senator Camera Bartolotta
    • Representative Jason Ortitay
    • Representative Timothy J. O’Neal
    • Donna Shriver, SmartKids Child Care & Learning Center
    • Audra Redick, The University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development

Visit our event webpage to register and learn more!

More Information

For more information about the Washington County Focus Week and the additional early learning advocacy efforts of Trying Together, contact Cristina Codario, Public Policy Regional Coordinator at 412.567.3673 or

For more information about Pre-K For PA or Start Strong PA, visit and online respectively.


March 27, 2019

No Small Matter Screening

Join co-hosts Trying Together and PUMP for a screening of “No Small Matter,” a documentary film that highlights the importance of high-quality early education and its impact on all Americans.


  • 6:00 – 6:30 p.m. | Dinner*
  • 6:30 – 7:15 p.m. | Screening
  • 7:15 – 7:45 p.m. | Panel Discussion
  • 7:45 – 8:00 p.m. | Action Item/Wrap-Up

*A light dinner will be provided.

Share this flyer with your network.


Free child care will be available for children ages two to eight. Pre-registration is required for child care and space is limited. To register for child care, visit Sweet Dreams Child Care’s registration link​.



About No Small Matter

No Small Matter is the first feature documentary to explore the most overlooked, underestimated, and powerful force for good in America today: early childhood education. Through poignant stories and surprising humor, the film lays out the overwhelming evidence for the importance of the first five years, and reveals how our failure to act on that evidence has resulted in an everyday crisis for American families, and a slow-motion catastrophe for the country.


March 5, 2019

Kindergarten Registration Open in Allegheny County

If your child is five, it’s time. Kindergarten registration has opened in Allegheny County for the 2019-2020 school year. View details on Kindergarten registration costs, locations, and dates at trying


Hi5! Campaign

Successful transition practices help school districts identify and work with early care and education providers in their community to support young children and their families so they are comfortable and prepared for the first day of Kindergarten. Through a partnership called Hi5!, Trying Together, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3 (AIU3) work with over 40 local school districts. Due to these efforts, Kindergarten registration rates have improved to a 97% early or on-time registration rate for Allegheny County children as reported for the 2017 – 2018 school year.


Learn More

Learn more about Kindergarten Transition with this white paper from Trying Together (PDF). For questions, contact Emily Neff at 412.421.3889 or


February 15, 2019

Response to Governor Wolf’s Budget Proposal

On Tuesday, February 5, Governor Tom Wolf presented his fiscal year 2019-20 budget proposal. In highlighting his plan to make the Pennsylvania workforce the strongest in the nation, he outlined several increases in early care and education programs, as well as his plans to spend over $101 million in federal child care funds. Governor Wolf’s proposal includes the following:

Child Care

  • $15 million in federal funds to provide subsidized child care for 970 additional infants/toddlers in STAR 3 and 4 programs.
  • $10 million in federal funds to provide a 28 percent increase to tiered reimbursement rates for STAR 2, 3 and 4 providers for infant/toddler care.
  • $2 million in federal funds to support an “Early Childhood Career Pathways Initiative” for education, training and professional supports for an apprenticeship, or work-based learning model for professionals serving infants/toddlers in early care and education programs.
  • $74 million in federal funds to provide a rate increase for subsidized providers for an increase in the minimum wage to $12/hour.

Today only one-third of subsidized children are accessing high-quality STAR 3 and 4 care, 4,300 children are on the subsidy waiting list, with families waiting 88 days to access subsidies they need to work, 50 percent of child care staff are receiving public assistance and child care subsidy reimbursements do not cover the cost of quality care. Trying Together, along with nine partner advocacy organizations, launched a new advocacy campaign last week – Start Strong PA – to turn those numbers around and increase access to high-quality child care for families so their infants and toddlers can grow, learn and succeed.

We are pleased to see the federal spending plan includes a waiting list initiative to serve more infants/toddlers in high-quality care and an increase in tiered reimbursement that will provide further program stability and consistency in teacher:child relationships. These are proposals for which we and partners advocated and align with our goals. We also believe the “career pathways” initiative will help to attract and retain talented early care and education teachers, another hallmark of the campaign.

Trying Together looks forward to learning more about Governor Wolf’s minimum wage proposal’s impact on the professionals in our field and the programs in which they work. While we appreciate the allocation of these critical federal dollars and again thank our federal delegation for strong, bipartisan support for high-quality child care, we are concerned with the lack of new state investments in this area.


  • $40 million for the Pre-K Counts program
  • $10 million for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program

This expansion would serve 5,500 additional young children.  

Today the commonwealth ranks 18th of the 30 states investing in high-quality, publicly-funded pre-k and with this investment 100,000 children still lack access. As a leading partner in the Pre-K for PA campaign, Trying Together is advocating that lawmakers fully-fund Governor Wolf’s proposal.

Evidence-Based Home Visiting

In addition, the budget proposal includes a $5 million investment in evidence-based home visiting programs to expand home visiting for 800 eligible families.

For more information on home visiting advocacy efforts go to

Evidence-Based Early Intervention

There is a $15 million state funding increase proposed in the Department of Education budget and a $9.75 million increase in the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget for Early Intervention to continue to support the cost of children receiving services.

Trying Together commends Governor Wolf for his continued commitment to early care and education programs in the commonwealth and encourages a state investment be made in high-quality child care so we can provide children with the educational foundation they all deserve. 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 here.


September 19, 2018

#PAbudget Funded Pre-K Expansions Recognized Locally

Policymakers from Butler and Westmoreland Counties joined Trying Together and other early-childhood advocates this week to celebrate a new pre-k grantee classroom and pre-k classroom expansion respectively. Both were made possible by the increased investment of $25 million for pre-kindergarten funding in the final 2018-19 state budget. To read more about both, see the articles below.


Ceremony Marks Expansion of Local Pre-K Programs (sharing via Butler Radio)

Advocates tout early education gains (sharing via Butler Eagle)

State grants bolster pre-kindergarten programs in Westmoreland County (sharing via Westmoreland Tribune-Review)

Statewide Voter Support

A poll commissioned by the Pre-K for PA campaign done by Harper Polling in May showed 75 percent of likely voters support increasing funding to expand access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-kindergarten, while 94 percent of voters believe that early education is important.

A large body of research shows that children who attend high-quality preschool:

  • Enter kindergarten with stronger literacy, language, math and social/emotional skills
  • Are less likely to need special education services, less likely to repeat grades, and more likely to graduate and enroll in college
  • Over a lifetime, these young learners will see stronger employment opportunities and increased earning potential
  • Are less likely to commit juvenile and adult crimes.

Still, more than 106,000 eligible children do not have access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-k due to limited state funding. This new classroom made possible by new state funding is a step in the right direction, but there is still much work to be done.

Pre-K for PA is an issue campaign supported by individuals and organizations across Pennsylvania who believe that investing in our children is the right choice and an urgent necessity. Our vision is that every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania will have access to high-quality pre-k. We will not endorse nor oppose candidates, but rather we will advocate on behalf of this vision for Pennsylvania’s children, schools and communities. For more information


June 25, 2018

$25MIL Increase for Pre-K Classes

Leaders in Harrisburg recently aproved a $25 million investment in pre-k programs in the 2018-19 Pennsylvania state budget.

As part of the budget agreement, Governor Wolf, along with Republican and Democrat legislators made a wise investment in Pennsylvania’s early education system and prioritized the state’s youngest learners. While the 2018-19 Pennsylvania state budget grew by just 1.7%, leaders in Harrisburg grew high-quality pre-k funding by 11%, high-quality child care services grew by 4%, and home visiting by an impressive, and much needed, 33%.

The 2018-19 spending plan included the following expanded investments in early learning:

  • Increases in Pre-K Counts investment: $20 million
  • Increases investment in Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program: $5 million
  • Increases investment in Child Care Services: $6.8 million
  • New investment in home visiting programs: $6.735 million

Still more than 106,000 eligible children do not have access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-k due to limited state funding. This budget increase will allow access to thousands of 3- and 4-year-old students in the upcoming school year. It is a step in the right direction, but we still have much work to be done as Pennsylvania lags far behind neighboring states. Today, Pennsylvania ranks 18th of the 30 states investing in high-quality, publicly funded pre-k. New Jersey is spending five times more per capita than PA, and West Virginia has had universal access for pre-k aged kids since 2012.

This year’s budget is testament to the fact that Governor Wolf, along with Republican and Democrat legislators, understand their constituents’ priorities.


March 6, 2018

Kindergarten Transition

The transition to kindergarten marks a critical point in the lives of children and families. Students who are ready for kindergarten and attend the first day of school are more likely to read on grade-level by third grade, regularly attend school, make friends, and are less likely to drop out of high school. Early and on-time registration allows schools and districts to plan for classroom materials, resources, and staff as they prepare to welcome a new group of students. It also enables families to establish relationships with teachers and administrators that are so important for easing the stress and anxiety of children (and their families) as they begin elementary school.

Register for Kindergarten

Top 10 Kindergarten Readiness Skills

Hi5! collaborated with a group of pre-k and kindergarten teachers to develop a list of academic, social, emotional, and physical skills for children entering kindergarten based on the PA Early Learning Standards. A list of more than 30 skills was sent to educators in school districts, child care programs, and Head Start programs throughout the region—including Allegheny, Butler, Fayette, Greene, and Westmoreland counties. View the checklist (Spanish version PDF).

About Hi5! Partnership

Hi5! Kindergarten transition efforts are led in partnership with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3 (AIU3), Trying Together, and United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania (who generously fund the project). We have a leadership team that consists of community and state partners, principals, Head Start administrators, and early learning program directors. The Hi5! Partnership focuses on engaging all 43 public school districts in Allegheny County and supports each district to:

    • develop and implement their own kindergarten transition plans;
    • build awareness with families that when “your child reaches five years of age, it’s time to register” them for kindergarten;
    • network and share best practices between pre-k teachers, kindergarten teachers, early childhood program directors, and school administrators; and
    • gather community resources throughout the county.

These efforts align with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal law passed in 2015 which required states to have a plan that includes thinking about the transition to kindergarten and how districts connect with early learning programs. For more information about the project, transition teams, and activities, please email, or view the Hi5! overview (PDF) and Kindergarten Transition Whitepaper (PDF).




If you would like to receive the Hi5! Kindergarten Transition newsletter, visit our sign up page!

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