Early Childhood Education Critical To Community Health
During this global pandemic, early childhood care and education options are less available and affordable than usual. The Park City Community Foundation held a Zoom meeting last week to kick off a $100,000 matching grant, fundraising effort. With that kickoff, they discussed local and regional community efforts to address the challenges.
The Park City Community Foundation brings together public and private partners to address big issues in the community, supporting the work of many non-profits, like the Early Childhood Alliance. Brian Shirkin is a Park City resident advocate for the program and believes supporting early childcare and education is an important investment for the community.
“We believe that our community must and can improve outcomes for young children and provide more childcare options for our workforce. Kirsten and I are both strong advocates for the immigrant community and those who are less fortunate, and the unsung heroes of our local workforce who will benefit greatly from this work. You hear about opportunities to support this initiative with immediate use dollars to continue impacting programs like Parents as Teachers, PC TOTS that subsidize care, and the Dolly Parton imagination library which offers free books to young children and their families.”
PC TOTS is an early childhood learning program with two centers serving Park City area working families. A 2018 initiative of the Park City Community Foundation, it provides high quality childcare and early education programming offering sliding scale tuition options for families who need it. According to Shirkin it costs $250,000 a year to provide tuition subsidies.
“Even with two centers the waiting list is long, and it is our personal objective to eliminate all of these waiting lists.”
Park City Community Foundation’s Early Childhood Alliance Executive Director Kristen Schulz says the National Association for the Education of the Young Child wants to standardize credentialling and pay guidelines, so it aligns with how public-school teachers are hired and paid. She says more than 50% of people working in childcare also must use some kind of public support.
“This is a national problem with the childcare industry. It's unaffordable for parents and yet the workers make so little but it's not an attractive career for a lot of people. And a lot of people are required to have a college degree at certain levels to be doing this work and so it is more of a national, I think, issue that really needs to be addressed.”
Schulz says the issue of quality, affordable early childhood care and education should engage businesses and government because it impacts every segment of the economy.
“I know the chamber has a new executive director coming in and I think it's a real opportunity for the community and in particular the employers in the community to get together and determine what we can do together to help because this really is, you know, it's a two generation issue, right? It's your workforce of tomorrow in terms of how these young children are being educated and then it's so vital to the workforce of today just in terms of being able to be at work.”
Shirken says their goal is to expand the program ultimately eliminating the waiting list for childcare subsidies in the greater Park City area within five years. He and his wife have made a $50,000 five-year commitment to building the program.
“Dan and Terese Heintzelman have also committed significantly to this work and have offered a generous match within the next few weeks of $100,000. So, I would encourage all of you that haven't committed yet to make your commitment, convert each dollar contributed into $2 due to the Heintzelman’s generosity.”
A link to the Park City Community Foundation can be found here.