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County to examine Children's Fund for early learning, after school programs

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County to examine Children's Fund for early learning, after school programs

Picture of Richard Lord
County to examine Children's Fund for early learning, after school programs
Jessie Wardarski/Post-Gazette
Monday, March 25, 2019

By Kate Giammarise

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has appointed a working group to examine creating a Children's Fund to bolster early learning and out-of-school time programs for kids throughout the county.

An effort last year to create such a fund, led by a group of nonprofitswas defeated by voters in November.

The 26-member working group named by Mr. Fitzgerald will be led by Trisha Gadson of nonprofit Macedonia FACE and Michelle Figlar of the Heinz Endowments, according to a statement Monday from Allegheny County officials.

“Ensuring that the children in Allegheny County have the best services available to them is important to me and is why I’ve put this working group together,” Mr. Fitzgerald said in a statement announcing the group's creation and first meeting.

“Children who have access to quality early childhood learning have improved social skills, better grades, and enhanced attention spans. Children who have access to after school programs do better in school, have fewer behavioral problems, and do not become involved with crime as young adults. We want that for all of our children. The effort last year resulted in having more than 250,000 voters say yes; this is important to them too. And many other voters wanted to know more – which is why I’ve convened this group, to help all of us put together what a countywide program can look like.”

Mr. Fitzgerald did not support last year's effort to create such a fund, which was led by a coalition of mainly nonprofits, and would have imposed a 0.25-mills property tax. At the time, he said he was supportive of the programs that would have been aided by the fund, though not a property tax increase.

Several working group members named by Mr. Fitzgerald were also part of last year's effort, though not former Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd, who was arguably the ballot initiative’s most visible booster.

The working group had its first meeting last week, according to a statement from Allegheny County officials, and plans to deliver a report to Mr. Fitzgerald within six months.

The group will review data to assess current children's programming, look at gaps between demand and supply and design the operations of a possible children's fund for early childhood and out-of-school time programs. It will examine scenarios for budgets of $5 million, $10 million and $20 million annually; findings will be reported to Mr. Fitzgerald.

The group will have four public community discussions.

“We want as much community input as possible,” said Ms. Figlar.

Working group members emphasized their endeavor is separate from what was before voters last November.

“We want to come into this without politics in the middle of this. We really want to get into conversations about, ‘What is most impactful for kids?’” said Ms. Gadson.

Through its ongoing Growing Up Through the Cracks series, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is focusing on the harmful impacts of concentrated child poverty on kids, families and communities locally, particularly in a dozen municipalities in Allegheny County in which about half of all children live in poverty.

Kate Giammarise: or 412-263-3909.

[This article was originally published by the Post-Gazette.]