Over the past several years, ECE leaders and advocates have used the economic impact message to broaden the conversation and change how they make the case for investment in ECE in the state Pennsylvania. Strong local networks and state advocacy groups have created significant momentum and provided a loud voice for Pennsylvania children that have resulted in an increase of over $700 million in investments for young children since early 2000. Currently, Pennsylvania does not have a state economic impact report.
Using Economic Messages
Statewide advocacy organizations and local partners are working together to advance the message that investments in young children is important to the future of Pennsylvania. With a state legislature that tends to be fiscally conservative, advocates have shared the case that the potential return on investment to children, families, schools, businesses, and the state is one worth making. Stakeholders across the state are sharing that message with state and local leaders to demonstrate the importance of this issue in urban and rural communities across the state.
Pulling partners together has increased the strength of the ECE message and its collective voice. For the past five years, the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, a strong, effective, and trusted voice to improve the health, early education, and well-being of the Commonwealth's children, has convened meetings of state and regional ECE advocates, providers, educators, law enforcement, faith-based organizations, and the United Way’s state and regional offices to strategically consider their budget and policy agenda for the year and work together to move their priorities forward.
Mobilizing at the local level has resulted in a big impact at the state level. The United Way has taken the lead in working at the local level especially with the business community to get their voices heard. Along with other stakeholders, local campaigns connect voters to their local representatives. Legislators were taken on visits to child care facilities and heard from local businesses about the importance of child care to their company. Partners with on the ground networks are building momentum and the base of supporters. The United Way is currently engaged with the business community around the pre-k issue. They are using these relationships along with the economic impact message, to broaden the conversation from pre-k to include the entire zero to five ECE system.
Research is critical to underpinning recommendations and showing what investments in ECE mean to Pennsylvania and its communities. The economic impact message was central to the advocacy efforts around the expansion of the Pennsylvania pre-k program. ‘Invest now to save and benefit later’ was a message that resonated with state leaders. It was so effective that advocates actually heard legislators repeating the message to their peers. Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is now looking to expand that argument to include the economic impact of child care and its important role in keeping people working.
Boosting the Economic Power of Early Care and Education: Key Highlights
In October 2007, the Pocono Healthy Communities Alliance, in collaboration with Pocono Mountains Chamber of Commerce and Penn State Cooperative Extension, hosted a business breakfast on the economic impact of child care. The event attracted local businesses and legislators. The panel of speakers included representatives from the State Office of Child Development as well as the Community and Economic Development Division. Also speaking was the Director of the Tompkins County, NY Chamber of Commerce, the first county to complete an economic impact of child care report. Businesses were provided information about an education tax credit for investing in ECE and how to participate in the program.
PNC Financial Services Group, a leading financial services organization in the nation and headquartered in Pennsylvania, is funding Grow Up Great, a 10-year $10 million investment in early childhood education. Grants have been made to Head Start and other early childhood programs, as well as for the development of innovative preschool projects that test new curriculum and teaching in key social and education areas. The chairperson of PNC has also served in a leadership capacity on the state Executive Leadership Council supporting the state pre-kindergarten effort. In addition to this investment, PNC has provided ECE support for its workers such as back up care that has resulted in the recouping of thousands of man hours each year.
State and Legislative Actions
In 2001, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC). The tax credit gives businesses a 75% tax credit for donations to a non-profit scholarship or educational improvement program including early pre-K programs. The tax credit increases to 90% if the company commits to making the same donations for two consecutive years. In July 2007, the legislature allocated a $16 million expansion of the program. Of that $8 million is for the pre-kindergarten scholarship program. To date roughly 2,300 companies have pledged more than $260 million dollars to the program.
In April 2002, Governor Mark Schweiker established by executive order the Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Care and Education that brought together children’s advocates, business, community, philanthropy and government. The result of their work was the report “Early Care and Education: The Keystone of Pennsylvania’s Future.”
In 2004, the Pre- K Counts Public-Private Partnership for Educational Success was created to help establish local pre-kindergarten partnerships among school districts, community-based providers and early intervention. The Executive Leadership Council that oversees the work of the Public Private Partnerships is co-chaired by the Governor and Jim Rohr, CEO of PNC Financial Group. The Partnership supports 30 communities in their efforts to provide quality pre-kindergarten in all settings.
In 2005, The Pennsylvania Early Learning Keys to Quality was created, combining professional development and the Keystone STARS quality improvement program. Keystone STARS was piloted in 2003 to help increase quality in ECE programs. The Pennsylvania Early Learning Keys to Quality has six Regional Keys and a state-level Pennsylvania Key. The Regional Keys serve ECE facilities and professionals in their region. They also administer the Keystone STARS programs and convene the Community Engagement Groups of local businesses, community leaders, and those interested in early childhood education.
The 2007 legislative session authorized an investment of $75 million to the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Program to provide a high quality pre-kindergarten program for 3 and 4 year old children, especially those at risk of academic failure.
The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) was created in January 2007 to brings together all early learning and development programs for children ages birth through five and develop an effective ECE system with high standards for programs and professionals.
June 2007, the Governor signed an executive order that allows family home providers, if they care for no more than three unrelated children in their homes, to unionize. They now join registered family home providers (those caring for four to six unrelated children in their home). It is anticipated this will assist in keeping high skilled teachers in the field and increase access to high quality ECE by creating more economically secure child care businesses.
Nonprofit Facilities Fund is working towards assisting child care providers to overcome the barriers in expanding their programs and facilities to keep pace with the recent boom in demand for services. The fund leads a group of banks and CDFIs in a program called the Child Care Expansion Consortium (CHEX).
Office of Child Development and Early Learning works to create a system of quality early education opportunities for children birth to five. The website contains information on early care programs as well as research and other resources.
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children works to improve the health, education, and well-being of the Commonwealth's children. The website contains research material, information on state early care efforts and other advocacy resources.