The first initiative of the newly-formed Women’s Caucus of Pittsburgh City Council is a broad examination of childcare centers in the city.
Councilwomen Deb Gross, Darlene Harris, Theresa Kail-Smith and Natalia Rudiak will introduce legislation that they say will improve childcare facilities and the quality of care in Pittsburgh.
The legislation calls for a comprehensive study of childcare providers, which will be used by city government to enhance the care and make necessary changes.
The women’s caucus also announced that they are forming a subcommittee of Mayor Bill Peduto’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Early Childhood Education to ensure Pittsburgh is “providing the best possible services to childcare providers in the city,” according to Rudiak. The panel has been working to improve early education practices and policies.
“What we’re trying to do as a women’s caucus is … to make sure that every single department, bureau and agency is really focused on the mission of supporting families and children across the city,” Rudiak said.
Approximately 65 percent of children under age 5 in Pittsburgh have all their available parents working, which means there is a high demand for quality childcare.
Gross said providers, which are businesses after all, sometimes cannot afford quality of care increases.
“If you can’t make enough money, you can’t keep staff. You can’t pay them enough to keep a stable workforce,” Gross said. “If you can’t improve your bottom line, you can’t improve that outdoor play space. You can’t buy better books. You can’t provide nutritious enough food.”
Wanda Franklin, executive director of Hug Me Tight, said the legislation is an important step toward “ensuring that all children in the city of Pittsburgh have access to high quality early childhood education.” Hug Me Tight, a childcare center in Hill District, is a full-day, year-round program that serves more than 85 children.
The women’s caucus is the first in Pittsburgh history. It is also the first time in history that four women are sitting on council.
“We decided as we started meeting and talking that there were a lot of things we shared in common,” Kail-Smith said. “We wanted to show that the women of council can work together to accomplish things for the residents of the city of Pittsburgh.”