Pennsylvania KinderCare leaders went to the capitol in Harrisburg recently to lobby hard on behalf of their state’s tiniest constituents. KinderCare action team members visited legislators Tuesday, June 3, as part of the state’s Early Childhood Action Day, which encourages legislators to continue funding for early childhood education programs throughout the state.
Mary Houlihan, a Knowledge Universe licensing and compliance advisor on the East Coast, says, “As legislators head into a new fiscal year, it’s a critical time to get information to them. If they don’t hear from you, they assume you don’t need funding, so we make our presence known.”
The Action Day is put together by advocacy groups Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAECY) Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC) and Pennsylvania Child Care Association (PACCA). They provide a meeting place, information packets on early childhood issues, and appointments with legislators for interested participants.
“These three groups organize the day and give us legislator appointments so we can speak to the early childhood programs that we hope will be funded. Pennsylvania has state-funded pre-k, and [KU] has five centers with Pre-K Counts classrooms,” says Mary.
The goals are to keep legislators informed, keep the funding in place, and show legislators the value of funding for early childhood education.
“I think they’re starting to see the difference of what we can do,” says Mary. “It’s pay now or pay later. If you’re going to be putting taxpayers money into a program, make sure it’s a quality program, and I think they can see we represent that.”
The KinderCare participants spent the day educating politicians on the value of early childhood programs.
“I am so proud of our district managers and center directors and the subsidy team,” says Mary. “I have to say, we are very good at this! The reception was overwhelmingly positive and people thanked us for coming. And we do it in such a professional way that I think they’re receptive.”
KinderCare leaders impressed on the legislators that it’s about kids, not politics, and that our centers run quality programs that have lasting positive benefits. Even though KinderCare is a for-profit entity, some families receive and rely on state funding.
“There used to be a stigma on us being for-profit, but now they see it’s not about the profit, it’s about what’s good for kids,” explains Mary.
The KU subsidy team has joined the core group of managers, directors and teachers for the past two years to help spread the word about how much KU has to offer as a leading childcare provider in Pennsylvania. Three key components to early childhood education funding in Pennsylvania are Child Care Assistance, Keystone STARS ratings, and the state-funded Pre-K Counts program.
“I applaud the people who arranged the day at their centers to attend along with their assistant directors and the rest of their teams who stayed behind and kept the centers running! It takes an entire team to make things like this happen and they did it! ” says Mary.
She went on to explain that KU walks a fine line trying to be there for the families without subjecting them to politics and political views.
“We can’t allow politics in the centers, but we have a lot of needy children here in Pennsylvania, and people don’t understand how the funding could all be gone very easily,” she says. “Funding is always in danger.”
Thank you to everyone who took action on behalf of KinderCare and Early Childhood Action Day. Here’s to a great group effort to keep quality programs for kids alive in the Keystone State.