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Pittsburgh Public Safety Department Wants to Help Parents Prepare Kids for School

A week after Governor Tom Wolf stopped at a Harrisburg prison to promote his plan to increase early education funding, Pittsburgh City Council will consider the link between public safety and preschool.

A bill approving the Department of Public Safety’s “Promised Beginnings” initiative is scheduled to come up for discussion in Council’s committee meeting Wednesday.

The initiative is part of the city’s Safer Together Pittsburgh Community Partnership, meant to improve police-community relations.

Public spokeswoman Sonya Toler says the goal is to hold a series of workshops for parents to promote kindergarten readiness.

“Our Safer Together community outreach team interacts with the public on a much more grassroots level, and there was an opportunity that needs to be filled,” Toler said. “In many communities, parents don’t know what their children need to be prepared for school.”

In April, the city held a pilot workshop in the East Hills. Toler said they received a positive response from parents and are now moving to formalize the initiative through city council.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Ready Freddy program is one of the local organizations tapped to present at the workshop series. Director Aisha White said kindergarten preparedness isn’t all about academics.

“Part of the transition process means moving either from being at home with mom only, to being in a classroom of maybe 25 kids, or being in a pre-K setting where you have about a dozen … kids,” White said.

Ready Freddy not only helps parents prepare their kids for school, but also aims to keep parents involved throughout the school year.

“We reach out to them again in the year and try to get them to come into the school for what we call a transition event, where they get to tour the school, meet the staff, visit an actual classroom, talk with the teacher, learn what their kids should know before they start and learn what their kids will learn throughout the school year,” White said.

Toler said the link between early childhood education and public safety may not be obvious, but pointed to studies that show children who attend pre-school are less likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

White said parents can experience similar outcomes.

“When parents receive supports, particularly young parents, and in some cases, single parents … and they learn a little bit about child development, then programs that have gone into the home have shown that they are able to reduce child abuse,” White said.

Additional community partners include The Pittsburgh Promise, Keystone Stars and Pittsburgh Public Schools, among others.