Of the approximately 220 childcare facilities operating in the City of Pittsburgh, only 18.1 percent earned a “high-quality” designation on Pennsylvania’s Quality Rating and Improvement System Keystone STARS.
To boost that figure, City Council approved the $2 million City of Pittsburgh Childcare Quality Fund.
The money will be used for program upgrades, such as curriculum materials and professional development. Physical improvements will receive attention, too, which could include HVAC repair, plumbing work, lead testing, playground equipment and other costly renovations that many facilities can’t afford on their own.
Administered by the Alliance for Infants and Toddlers, the fund will help increase the number of high-quality seats. When facilities move up in the STARS system, they can pull in additional financial support from the state, including staff bonus awards and funds to allow children to attend programs such as Pre-K Counts and Head Start.
“I am committed to ensuring that all children in the City of Pittsburgh have access to high-quality early learning and Pre-K,” says Mayor Peduto. “This grant fund will provide child care facilities with the means to improve their programs and will build the number of quality seats that we have in the City. This is a big step toward my goal of offering universal Pre-K.”
With 90 percent of brain development occurring before age 5, it’s imperative to get kids started in quality early education to prepare them for kindergarten and their future success.
The city currently offers a free, full-day of safety training for childcare workers through the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety, according to Tiffini Simoneaux, early childhood manager for the mayor’s office. The courses, which would typically cost between $50 to $100 per person, allow childcare staff to get the certifications that are required by the state in Pediatric CPR/First Aid and Fire Safety.
Lack of staffing, Simoneaux says, may impact the number of children served in a classroom due to state-mandated ratios. The capacity for licensed facilities in the city is 11,588 children, but, for most facilities, that number doesn’t reflect the current enrollment or the number that they can serve.
“The cost of running a high-quality childcare facility is a constant challenge,” Simoneaux says, “especially for those programs that serve low-income children and families where subsidy reimbursements and tuition payments do not meet the true cost of care.”