In 2016, One PA launched a campaign to demand affordable access to high quality and inclusive early education and care for all families. Early childhood education and care programs prepare children to grow and learn, and allow parents to go to work knowing their children are in the best possible care. The benefits of early education also translate to success later in life. Children who attend high-quality programs have a reduced likelihood of criminal behavior, higher chances of being employed as adults, increased lifetime earnings, and less reliance on welfare.

Unfortunately, there are more than 20,000 three and four-year-olds in Allegheny County without access to publicly funded, high-quality Pre-K. Parents face many roadblocks to access, among them long waiting lists and difficulty navigating the system.

[ Natalia Rudiak and Erin McClelland: Early childhood, the best investment ]

Thanks in large part to our members’ testimony and our organizing, last year, the Pittsburgh City Council’s Women’s Caucus introduced legislation that was passed unanimously to create the Office of Early Childhood for the city of Pittsburgh, which works to align services that affect young children — services ranging from licensing to health and safety.

In February of 2017, with help from the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC) and Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, One PA authored Pre-K in Pittsburgh: A Call for Action, a report that outlined the devastating impact the lack of early childhood education has on Pittsburgh’s youngest residents.

Thanks to the report, City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak introduced and passed legislation calling for a 15-member task force which will have four seats held by One PA members and leaders, and three seats held by close strategic partners. The purpose of the task force will be to improve the lives of young families by expanding access to free Pre-K for those families under 300% of the poverty line.