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Education

Local Early Childhood Sector To Receive $4.4 Million From Heinz Endowments

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Emma Lee
/
WHYY

Providing child care became even more expensive during the pandemic. Centers were closed during lockdowns, while enrollment overall decreased as safety protocols and the cost of supplies grew.

The sector was already operating with thin margins when the pandemic focused new attention on the critical role it plays in the region's overall economic health.

Against that backdrop, the Heinz Endowments is awarding roughly $2.5 million to support work for children prenatally through age three. Nearly $1.9 million was awarded to groups that advocate for early education and care.

“While recent state and federal funding is significant, we must do more to make up for chronic underfunding and invest in a system that truly works for every child,” said Grant Oliphant, the president of the Endowments in a release.

The foundation granted $500,000 to the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children. The money is intended to support an equitably compensated workforce by boosting the wages of Black women in the field.

A 2020 Early Childhood Workforce Index study from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment found that nationally, Black early childhood educators earn 78 cents less per hour than their white peers.

“The pay inequity many providers face, combined with the pervasive affordability and accessibility issues our most vulnerable families experience when seeking childcare, shows the urgency of our work in this sector,” said Michelle Figlar, the vice president of learning for the Endowments.

Another $800,000 will go to Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services so it can develop plans to help vulnerable families access higher-quality childcare.

In all, the awards announced this week break down as follows:

Prenatal – age three grants

Child Trends, to support grants focused on prenatal care and care for children up through age 3, and to build capacity for assessment of progress toward equitable outcomes for children and families ($70,000).

County of Allegheny/Department of Human Services for Hello Baby, to support a multi-pronged outreach and engagement initiative for families with newborns ($800,000).

Elizabeth Seton Center Inc., to serve toddlers and their families, employ more early childhood educators, and reduce waiting lists for high-quality local child care ($50,000)

Education Law Center – Pa, to advance education justice, beginning in early childhood, by removing barriers to public education and replacing them with affirming policies ($700,000).

Hosanna House, for funding of its Child Development Program, in recognition of decreased revenue caused by the COVID-19 crisis ($400,000).

Mommy’s Imagination Station, to increase educational services — including early education for toddlers, Pre-K, and kindergarteners — to vulnerable populations ($70,000).

Reading Is Fundamental Pittsburgh, to support Storymobile and Book Babies programming, and to reduce the literacy and achievement gaps in targeted neighborhoods ($400,000).

Advocacy for education and care

Council for a Strong America, to increase capacity of regional law enforcement, military and business leaders as early childhood education and K-12 advocates ($150,000).

MomsRising Education Fund, to engage, educate and empower Allegheny County parents and caregivers to influence policies affecting the early-learning sector ($400,000).

National Council of Jewish Women, to inspire working mothers to advocate for a strong and stable child care sector ($47,000).

Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, for the implementation of a policy advocacy strategy to increase access to high-quality early care and education programs provided by a valued and appropriately compensated workforce ($500,000).

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, for the implementation of a data-centric and community-informed policy strategy focused on prenatal stages through young adulthood ($600,000).

Teach Plus Incorporated, to empower effective teacher leaders to achieve education policy wins in Pennsylvania that will advance equity for students ($200,000).