Last week, the Allegheny County Children’s Fund Working Group delivered their final report
to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. The report called for the creation of a new
department in county government dedicated to critical initiatives for the children of
Allegheny County and recommended allocating approximately $20 million annually in
local resources. The report stressed the need that exists across Allegheny County,
particularly related to early learning and after-school programs. This high-quality and
easily accessible report must serve as a foundation for action.
Research has shown that early learning and after-school programs are extremely important to
the growth and development of children. For every $1 that is invested in quality early
learning programs, the return to society – the savings and positive financial results –
equates to between $3 and $11. The lifetime earnings of those children who participate
in quality early learning programs is 25% higher each year. Additionally, there are
reduced costs for special education and the criminal justice system. In terms of after-school, for every $1 invested in quality after-school programs, the return to society is at
There is a very real need to fill the gap of these services across Allegheny County.
Throughout the county, out of the 45,000 children under the age of 5, only 15,000 have
access to quality early learning programs. In regards to after-school programs, the lack of
local public funding makes access to high quality programs even more acute with only
approximately 30% of children in Allegheny County being served by a quality after-school program. This low number results in approximately 25,000 children unsupervised
during the after-school hours and at increased likelihood of engaging in anti-social or risky
The working group recommended that the County Executive and County Council create one
small department dedicated to improving the lives of children across our county. At the
local level, a small team of individuals specializing in the needs of children across all of
our school districts and municipalities are needed to work together to leverage local
revenue for federal and state resources. The recommended budget of $20 million would
not come close to meeting the identified needs but it is a start and the possibility of
bringing additional resources for private as well as state and local sources is significant.
The 25-member group deserves thanks for its intense and important work. Convened in
late March by County Executive Fitzgerald, the group met repeatedly through the spring
and summer applying their skills to make informed recommendations. At the same time,
the group lead public meetings designed to gather valuable input from across the
county. The group diligently incorporated critical feedback and provided for public
review a summary of their public engagement.
With the issuance of their report, the Allegheny County Children’s Fund Working Group
has handed County Executive Fitzgerald a blueprint for making bold systemic change
for children throughout the county.