Business and childcare leaders in York County have raised more than $500,000 for a grant program designed to improve the quality of early childhood education in the county, replacing a state program that was cut during the pandemic.
- Leading the charge have been Anthony Campisi, chairman of York-based Glatfelter Insurance Group; Pete Brubaker, president of York-based advisory firm Hammer Creek Enterprises and former president and CEO of Susquehanna Media; and Christy Renjilian, executive director of York-based Child Care Consultants.
- Brubaker and Campisi also are members of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission, a Harrisburg-based group that engages businesses in addressing the pressing need for high-quality childcare.
- “This is a way to raise the tide for all childcare providers in York County,” Campisi said last week at an event hosted by the York County Economic Alliance’s economics club.
How does it work: Early childhood educators apply for the grants based on their education level and the quality of the programs they run.
- The idea is to encourage educators to further their own education while tackling the sector’s chronic staffing challenges, which are partly a function of low pay.
- In March, roughly 96% of childcare providers in York County were short on staff, which results in closed classrooms, according to Andrea Heberlein, executive director of the early learning commission.
- The lack of childcare slots costs businesses in terms of employee absences and turnover, she added, citing research by the commission, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
What’s next: Backers hope to continue the York County Early Educator Awards for at least three years.
Funders so far include York County, which chipped in $250,000 from federal relief money, as well as private foundations and donors.
- In order to streamline future donations, a dedicated fund, called the Early Childhood Education Fund, was established under the aegis of the York County Community Foundation.
- Grant applications were due at the end of last week. As of Thursday, the York County program had awarded just over $400,000 to 259 educators, said Heberlein, who notes the York County program could be a model for others around the state.
- The average award is about $1,500.
- Pennsylvania operated a similar grant program statewide. But during the pandemic, it was converted to direct cash payments to all childcare workers.